October 28th, 1990: I was born, the youngest of 5 older siblings (4 sisters, 1 brother – which can explain why I get along better with girls than guys [for the most part]). My brother is essentially the black sheep of the family. He dropped out of college, is the buffer, cooler, Asian version of me, and he now works as a janitor at a school making roughly $27 an hour. After he got married he and his wife took over the room I once shared with him. And with a baby coming in December, it’s going to be chaotic living in the same house as them.
One of my sisters is married (with three kids), one is old and still living with us, one is now working at Rite Aid making tons of money (while dating a Korean man), and another is attending pharmacy school in Oregon. My parents somehow convinced two of my older sisters to go to pharmacy school – unfortunately for them, I was persistent in not pursuing a science degree in any biology or chemistry related fields (and I might have to suffer financially in the future for it).
I don’t remember much, but paralleling everyone’s search for the “American Dream”, I entered the K12 California school system.
I first lived in Stanton in a pretty ghetto apartment, but I can’t complain since almost all of my childhood memories were derived from there. I remember there were sidewalks where I used to live, and I remember riding my bike, skating, and chilling with my sister as we walked to Outdoor Swapmeets and 99 cent stores to buy food. I also remember an illegal candy shop in the apartment next to us (of course, I thought it was legit at the time, but yeah… long story). Walking took a long time back then (as it does now), but I can truly say that I was probably 24 times more fit back then than I am now. (Remember, these are the pre-Internet days). I remember living around a bunch of Mexicans and I tried my best to make friends with them, but it just didn’t work out. I was taught in school to celebrate diversity and respect other cultures. However, that’s not the ACTION I received from fellow of my Mexican peers at Stanton. But, we’ll get into that later.
Obviously these pictures were taken much later, due to the grim reality that I don’t have much childhood pictures of my community. These pictures are not in any particular order and I can’t really arrange them in a way that is accurate to grade level.
Now, cumulatively speaking, the events that have transpired from Preschool to Graduation.
Pre-school: I remember crying a lot. Looking back on my pre-school picture, I could tell I was a weird kid, but I was much bigger back then. Like a little more balanced teddy bear. And perhaps even darker (I don’t like my ability to tan).
Kindergarden: Oh boy! How can you ever forget those childhood games as you walk into class. I remember playing with Disney toys, action figures, puzzle games, you name it !. It was the best of times, it was the worse of times. I remember truly being a “rebellious bad boy” then, but after crying a few times, and a BUNCH of punishments from my teacher, I realized the good in me, and decided to embrace it. From that point on, I entered a terrain I would never be able to escape – the nice, good guy. Aiya.
I wasn’t exactly the most social kindergardener, but who is? I remember this one time when 2 girls were chasing me around, and I just happened to get scared. I was so morbidly afraid of girls at the time. And I had no idea why. It must have been the large cootie outbreak of the 90′s everyone was up in arms about. So I decided to “faint”, so I laid on the grass as they chased me. I must have been really tired at the time, so I fell asleep. Ouch. When I woke up, I was in a hospital. Turns out, they took me to the nurse (who thought I fainted… sigh), so they took me to the hospital (where I was hooked up to more stuff). I woke up and was ready to leave. That included a hefty hospital fine, which I plan to pay my parents back in due time, as soon as I have a decent career & paycheck. That story pretty much tells you the failure of the American healthcare system in a nutshell. How a nurse and doctor couldn’t simply tell that I fell asleep is beyond my understanding.
1st grade: I was bullied most of elementary school because of my race. That must have shattered my self esteem, because I truly had trouble making friends. The only friend I had was a Chinese boy named Danny (he was Chinese). He was a nice guy, but I think at some point, he realized he could prevent himself from being bullied by bullying me when we were around other people. I had to stick with him though, because he was the ONLY chance I had for an Elementary school friendship. ONLY CHANCE. Everyone else was truly inconsiderate and cruel. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? (Written before Kelly Clarkson made it into a song)
2nd grade: Maybe my poor self esteem rubbed off to scar me for life, because I was EXTREMELY shy in 2nd grade. My teacher, Mrs. Chee tried her best to prevent me from being that kind of kid. By the end of the year, she’d have me raising my hand to volunteer and talking to other people more casually.
What I failed to realize at that point was, that the girls in elementary school were much nicer than the boys. The boys would argue, tease, and make fun of me every chance they got. The girls were fun, and didn’t involve themselves in such elementary antics. Of course, I realize, befriending a bunch of girls in elementary school would probably have made me even more feminine, but it could have boosted my self esteem a lot more, instead of scarring it indefinitely.
3rd grade: I have absolutely no idea why I decided to verbally assault my Mexican bullies back this year, instead of the other years. Maybe I was REALLY, definitely tired of it. Maybe, maybe not.
Thus far, it had only been verbal assaults fired at me about everything, including the most frequently used comment in elementary school, “gay”, or “gay-lord”. What the heck is a gay-lord?! I still have no idea.
I decided to verbally assault them back. Guess where that got me? Physical assault. They followed me around after school, chasing me to my house, and beating me up. up. up. time after time, again and again.
I decided to finally tell the teacher. Of course, the way I told Mr. Vo was the most awkward way EVER to tell a teacher, in front of the whole class. I remember him reading us a story, and then asking us a question. It went a little something like this.
Me – raises hand
Mr. Vo: Yes Le?
Me – These 4 kids beat me after school yesterday.
Of course, they got punished. But they didn’t get after school detention. They had to sit at a pole for lunch. Literally. WTF! That was their punishment!? They still followed me after school and beat me up, even harder probably.
Luckily, I walked home an alternative route, and this route included ice cream, so I was happy. Of course, with the physical assaults gone, the verbal assaults remained, indefinitely.
This was also the year I made a really , really nice friend. His name was Stephen, and he was white (duh). He was one of the only kind people I met in elementary school, and we talked often. Unfortunately he moved halfway through the year. What the heck.
4th grade: This was the year I think my self esteem was boosted (a little bit). I was kind of young, but I knew it was weird how I never had anyone to talk to (socially). I hated it. Maybe I was really weird back then. I can’t even remember right now, but the fact that I was so lonely during elementary school just brings back unhappy thoughts.
Unhappy. Unhappy thoughts.
Of course, this was the year of the “Anaheim Achieves” after school program. Whoop De doo. I remember attending it. I also remember getting Class President. It was so funny. All the girls voted for me – I guess I was nice to them, and they were nice back. I beat Alex, one of the Mexicans running against me. I think it was due to his own stupidity though. I remember his friend Louis running or something, and Alex voted for Louis.
What the heck.
This was the year I also ran into my after school teacher’s car with a bike. I think someone chased me. I’m not sure, but I made a huge dent in her car.
& No, she did not sue.
I remember Saturday day morning cartoons, and when they used to have Fox Kids & Kids WB Weekdays back to back.
I remember Pokemon, Digimon, Animaniacs, Cardcaptors, and everything else they showed on tv. I watched the Simpsons DAILY. TV was my escape, in a pre-internet age.
I’ve been through FOX for a while, and I didn’t get obsessed with it until The O.C. & 24 came on.
Everything changed when I moved to Garden Grove. It took a while, but I think I was able to boost my self esteem up.
5th grade: I transferred to Stanford Elementary, and I had trouble making friends. I was probably really afraid of not being able to live up to anyone’s expectations considering my lack of social skills acquired in K-4th grade. Fortunately one day Mrs. Demaria walked up to me and was like “John. Have you tried making any new friends yet?”. So I finally decided to try. Cause a teacher asking you that is super humiliating.
So I walked to the handball courts, and I made my first ever Garden Grove friend, Thiep Mai.
He was a nice guy. Pretty soon, I made a bunch more friends (all male, of course). I think as far as girls were considered, I was still afraid of them.
Oops. They looked nice on tv though. I developed a crush on Nhuy Nguyen this year, as well. Little did I know Thiep liked her too at the time (so did most people in my class).
6th grade: I talked to new friends this year, including Jim Van, who I obviously couldn’t even trust. I remember going to his house, and playing Super Smash Brothers & Sim People. It was fun. One day, Andy went to his house, and he didn’t like me, so he convinced Jim to tell me to “Go home!” It was so upsetting. I was like WTF.
Also, I told Jim Van a secret I probably shouldn’t have, that I liked Nhuy Nguyen. He goes and tells her best friend Jennine Ta, and then she tells her.
So one day, I’m playing handball and up walks Nhuy Nguyen, and she passes by me and goes “Le (old name) is gay”. I was so humiliated.
Self Esteem. Down by 200% at that point. Eventually I would graduate from Stanford Elementary to delve into a new kind of drama – the drama that is MIDDLE SCHOOL.