I am omnipotent. Really, I am. See, I've figured that as long as I'm alive andwell, I've proved to life that I have conquered every hardship it has hurled atmy face. I was not raised in a religious family, but I believe there is anextraterrestrial force that gives everyone adversities to test your will tosucceed. I call my own personal obstacle Dad.
One day during sophomoreyear, I came home to a crime scene. The dining table had been overturned andbroken. There were splinters of wood on the green carpet. As I stood frozen onthe "Welcome" mat, I swept my eyes over the apartment while my heartraced faster than a Porsche. Wait. This couldn't have been a robbery. Everythingexcept the table is in perfect order. Feeling a bit relieved, I remembered tobreathe and stepped into the room.
Cautiously, I wandered through my homesearching for Mom or Dad, or at least a reasonable explanation for the mess. Withthe suspicion of robbery clinging to my mind, I inched toward the bedrooms, andwhen I finally confirmed I was alone, I let the anxiety flow from my body. Thenit was time to call my mom and demand an answer.
"Mama? Where areyou?"
"Out shopping." Her voice resonated with clearbitterness.
"Oh," I paused. "What the heck happened athome?"
"Go ask your dad."
"When are you cominghome?"
"I'll be home in a few hours."
I had hoped itwasn't true. The broken table wasn't a result of a robbery; it was the result ofan argument between my parents, most likely over Dad's excessive gambling. Therewas nothing I could do but slump down and cry. So I did, there under thekaleidoscopic light of the chandelier, wondering why I couldn't have a normal dadlike everyone else.
When Dad quit his job the year before, Mom had becomethe vertebra of the family, covering the household expenses alone - includingDad's debts. But she didn't take his gambling silently. My parents constantlyargued over his incompetence as a father and a husband. Two hours of endlessshouting followed by two weeks of piercing silence were notuncommon.
During my parents' arguments, I would usually sit in my roomabsorbed in self-pity and anger. Sometimes I would try to distract myself withhomework, but I would only become more irate. Why my parents? Why did Dad becomelike this? He used to be such a good dad. I bet none of my friends has to gothrough this! Life is so unfair! I was dumbfounded and enraged that Dad, my dad,would exchange his nuptial and paternal responsibilities for such a disgustinghabit. I was so disappointed in him and so ashamed that I kept everything abouthim a secret.
I refused to discuss my dad's failures with my friends;it was family business, and I preferred to keep it that way. Chinese people havea lot of pride, and I was afraid that discussing it with friends would shame mymom, who works hard to preserve a good image of our family. I'm the one who hasto live with a chronic gambler who's pouring out family money like dirtydishwater. It can't be undone, only endured and conquered.
So, I enduredthe misery and shame by immersing myself in self-pity. When a friend mentionedthat her dad had a doctorate in mathematics, I could only smile and wish my dadwould use his gambling time to instead memorize the alphabet. When a friendcomplained about her dad being overseas on business, I could only smile and wishmy dad had a real job. Whenever anyone mentioned his or her dad, all I could dowas smile and attempt to restrain my toxic bitterness. I wanted to shout at themand tell them how lucky they were. I was the true victim.
But one day, myattitude changed abruptly. While waiting for Mom to finish grocery shopping, Ihung around a local shop, browsing through elegant trinkets and other goodies.When I noticed a wooden key chain with Chinese calligraphy, I moved closer toread its wisdom.
"Zhi zu chang le," the proverb said:"Always be satisfied and happy."
Even though the proverb seemedgeneral, I read it to mean that I should not sulk over trivial things, likehaving a flawed father, and be content with what I have because many are muchworse off. I purchased it with my meager allowance and kept it on my backpack asa daily reminder to proceed with life and not be inhibited by Dad's undignifiedfailures. I have no choice but to live this life to the fullest and help myselfbecause it's my life, and I have only one chance to live it well. I purchased anew way of living for $3.50.
After the key chain was securely fastened tomy backpack, I decided to forget all my self-pity and enjoy the luxuries of beingan ordinary girl. To all my friends, I appear an average girl with a normalfamily and a typical school life. I "kick it" with my friends and tellpathetically lame jokes. I get above-average grades and work hard like everyoneelse. I'm not a popular cheerleader or an aloof savant. I appear so ordinary thatno one would ever suspect my family's hardships. My peers' obliviousness to theseproblems gives me the chance to forget all the lamp-breaking at home and live andlearn like the average student.
To this day, Dad is a gambler, but I'mno longer the same. Sure, I'm still disappointed in him, but I have moved pastthe unproductive anger. I accept my family the way it is, even that my dad is asocial outcast. So what if I despise him for making my mom cry? So what if my dadis losing more money than my mom is earning? Dad's ineptitude as a father and ahusband is now insignificant in my life. I believe Dad's gambling is a test toassess my will to overcome obstacles and triumph over difficulties. And I have. Ihave defeated the challenge life placed before me by turning adversity intoinspiration.
So you see, I wasn't lying. I am omnipotent.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.