Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the blog posts are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Overcoming Adversity

Sometimes I wonder why I am so fortunate to overcome such adversity when there are so many Hmong women who cannot overcome the same experience. It is only after I dissect every aspect of my experience that I can pinpoint how lucky I am. 

I got married one month after I turned 14. I got pregnant soon after and had a daughter. While I was pregnant, I started to realize I wasn’t happy in the marriage. By the time I was 16, I knew I was in an unhealthy relationship and wanted, no needed to leave the marriage. Soon after I graduated high school, I found the strength to leave the marriage permanently. By the time I was 18, I was already divorced with a child. Most people don’t have this much life experience before they even enter college. 

While I was contemplating my divorce my biggest fear was: what if I return to my natal family and bring shame to my parents? In the Hmong culture, shame is the most awful thing you can do to your family. I would be a divorced, single mom. I could bear the stigma but would my parents be able to? What if my parents blamed me for the divorce? I feared that my parents would say, “You were too lazy and that’s why your in-laws didn’t want you.” My parents never uttered those words. Fortunately, my parents were very supportive of my divorce. After the divorce, I finally realized the full strength of my parent’s love for me, their eldest daughter. My parents truly wanted what was best for me, disregarding their reputation. My parents never made me feel guilty for leaving the marriage; they never blamed me. They never made me feel ashamed of my decision. I eventually became much more independent, moved out on my own, and completed college. 

I have a cousin who had a similar experience. She got married very young, had a child and divorced all before completing high school. For whatever reason, she keeps getting stuck in this cycle. She has been in several marriages. She has not been able to hold a steady job or go to college. We had such similar experiences; how is it that I am able to be where I am today and she is still stuck in this destructive cycle? I could not understand the different outcomes until I compared our families. My father was so protective of me he didn’t care that I left the marriage; he just wanted me to be safe. After my cousin’s divorce, her brother would hit her when she did something to disappoint or embarrass the family. I do not know if her parents ever shamed her for leaving her first husband or if they ever tried to protect her from her brother.

I know now how lucky I am to have such supportive parents. They made all the difference in my development as a woman. Their unconditional love has brought me to where I am today and I am forever grateful for that. I know I will repeat this cycle of unconditional love towards my children even if it means going against the grain.

1 comment:

  1. I am so proud of you for having the courage to leave an unhealthy relationship. I don't think many Hmong women would have the courage to leave, especially because of the reasons you named.

    I also believe that the outcome of a person's decision (whether that be to leave a relationship, to not get married even when other people are pressuring you to, or to pursue college) is greatly impacted by the kind of support he/she receives. We don't live in isolation. Other people's behavior impacts ours and vice versa.

    This is a good reminder that we need to involve the family members in doing social change work. The either have the power to help or hurt us.