My father’s life story has always been a story of ambition, populated with beloved characters and events, but also a story that I never fully understood or appreciated. Visiting the small farm in Central California where he was raised, I observed an upbringing which seemed so incongruous to my own and I frequently contemplated the distance he had traveled—physically, intellectually, economically—to make it from that farm to our home today. Though his parents’ internment in Japanese American camps during World War II was an early obstacle to his success, his ambition and drive to succeed in life was informed by his reflection of my grandparent’s perseverance in adversity. I was brought into a life so different from his that it is almost surreal. It seemed to me that the “why” of my father’s story was the underlying link—the “glue”—that connected the various characters and events with their relevant meanings. I needed to find this link in my own life to achieve the same unification that my father had in his.
I graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2017 with a degree in Marketing. After graduating, I began to climb the proverbial corporate ladder, hoping that the higher I ascended, the clearer my own story would become. In 2018, I obtained a sought-after position at Microsoft Corporation and I thought I was moving closer to my goals of stability and success. Still, however, I felt my life lacked the “glue” that would bind my story. I found that as I moved upward, I became less clear both about the connection between my father’s driving purpose and my sense of personal fulfillment.
I began to make routine trips home for dinner with my family. The more time I spent at home being nourished by good food and conversation, the more I began to realize that I had overlooked something that was so evident in my father’s cooking: The real reason he enjoys these meals so much is the deeply personal and nurturing aspect of them. My father thrives amongst others, simply because he understands that human connection is the key to his flourishing and, ultimately, his motivation to derive meaning. This realization gave me perspective on the greater significance of my father’s life: The life my father leads isn’t for himself, it’s for those around him.
My father and his siblings were raised by a mother who lost her husband early in life; they were raised in an environment of community. His family depended on others. He learned through practice that his own success and failure was intimately tied to the success and failure of others. True success was not his own, rather it was something shared by those upon whom he depended and those who depended upon him. He eventually left his home knowing that the potential of his education was not only his own but was his family’s too.
Illustration by Dana Smith