In a recent survey, one of my readers asked a question that caught my attention right away.
What do you know for sure about life?
Okay, first -- I love Oprah. (Stick with me, I do have a point.)
When a new issue of the Oprah magazine arrives in my mailbox, all I want to do is flip to the very last page. The very last page is a special feature in every issue written by Oprah herself titled, What I Know For Sure.
And it’s my guilty pleasure every month. Here’s how this page came to be, in Oprah's own words:
It could be considered among my most embarrassing moments. The first time I ever heard the question "What do you know for sure?" I was doing a live television interview in Chicago with renowned film critic Gene Siskel. We had been doing the usual promotional chitchat for the movie Beloved and he concluded the interview by saying, "Tell me, what do you know for sure?"
"Uhhhhhh, about the movie?" I asked, knowing he meant something more but trying to give myself time to think. "No," he responded coolly. "You know what I mean—about you, your life, anything, everything..."
"Uhhhhhh, I know for sure...uhhh...I know for sure I need to think about that question some more, Gene." I was clearly thrown and went home and thought about what he'd asked for two days.
I've since done a lot of thinking about what's certain, what's real, what's true. [...] And every month I must find yet another answer.
Since I discovered this page, I’ve been thinking about my own answers to that question and have always wanted to share them. So here we are. To my dear reader, thank you for asking.
I was born and raised as a first-generation Hmong American girl by rather strict parents and traditional elders who were quite protective and believed they knew what was best for me. These are just a few beliefs I came to know from my upbringing:
Staying after school is irresponsible, even if you lead a student club.
Because she can’t go, your mom will be sleeping on the couch, waiting for you to come home after prom.
It’s 6 AM. Grandma’s having a hu plig ceremony. You laying there, no one will ever want you as their nyab.
Find a job. Singing isn’t a job.
Don’t bring him over unless you want to get married.
Thaum twg koj mam pib koj lub neej? Your life is incomplete. Get married.
For the first 20+ years of my life, I leaned on those who raised me and trusted them to show me the right path. I questioned that path many times. I cried on that path many times.
It was only after taking the “right path” that was approved by others did I realize how unhappy I was. Wasn’t this the “right path?” They’re happy for me. Why am I not?
Because the one thing I didn’t know how to do was to lean on and trust myself.
I can proudly say that life’s different now. The day came (a random, definitely unplanned day) when I (silently) thanked my parents and elders for raising me, and then showed them it was time for me to raise myself.
The day came to lean on and trust myself.
So, what I know for sure is:
You are responsible for your life.
Yes, YOU. Just you. No one else -- even if others have told/showed you otherwise since the day you were born.
There you have it! I hope you took something away from today's blog post. Honestly, I still have many more answers to share, from short & simple to deep & complex.
TELL ME: Would you like to me to share more answers in the future? I hope to make "What I Know For Sure" a recurring series on the blog. As always, let me know in the comments below!
Until next time…