I’ve been going through Acts recently and there are several things about the book that bother me. I mean, the book as a whole is incredibly encouraging. Perhaps the most encouraging book of the Bible. Bold? It’s just encouraging to see God using weak and frail people to do His work. Plus seeing the growth of the church is amazing. It’s just a testimony of how real Jesus’ resurrection was to them. Also, this time through the book has been especially good for me. I’ve just been getting a lot more out of it. Partly because of the book What The Bible Is All About. This book really helps you understand the Bible as you read it. I highly recommend it.
Anyway, one thing that bothers me and has always bothered me is Stephen’s speech before he gets stoned. I mean, it just makes no sense to me. I always got the feeling like he wanted to go through the whole Old Testament but he got the feeling it was getting too long so he just stopped and ended it. If anyone can help me understand this, I would appreciate it a lot.
It’s 5:00 in the morning so what better time to think about my childhood. I was born in Ohio. It’s kind of random where people were born. Like a bunch of people were born in L.A. and still live there. Boring. Or Korea. Less boring, but still standard. But it’s weird where people were born. Like I was born in Ohio. How random is that? Eddie Ahn was born in Iowa. Again, pretty random. More than me. Charlie Chang was born in Wisconsin. Eli was born somewhere in Florida, like Daytona Beach or something. Bernice’s entire draw group (basically) was born in New Jersey. Random. Anyway, I’m glad I was born in Ohio.
Soon after I was born, my family moved to Sunnyvale, CA. In Ohio we lived on Hiland street. In Sunnyvale, we lived on… I can’t remember. At any rate, I have very few memories of my early childhood. There are things my parents tell me, though. For example, my grandmother used to take me to McDonald’s sometimes, and I would say hello to everyone we walked by. Another thing is when I was little, my parents would sing the Toyota jingle at the time, “You ask for it you got it.” and I would go “Toyota.” I actually have vague memories of this. I mean, I know the jingle, even though it was a long time ago. It’s kind of disturbing how big television is in our lives.
One thing that’s always disturbed my in my older years is how me and my sister used to take baths together. I just think about that now and it’s gross. But we did. And we were old enough for me to remember. Basically we played in the tub for like 30 minutes with toys (boats and such) and then my mom or grandmother would come and “deh” us. “Deh” is the Korean word for the dirt that comes off when you rub your skin in the shower. I don’t know if white people understand this. But my mom would do that and it hurt! But it feels really clean. Anyway, I can’t believe we used to bathe together. Disturbing. I wonder when we stopped.
It’s weird how I remember random things like this, but I remember when I took my first shower. It was during the summer, and I took it in my parents’ bathroom. It was really scary because I was afraid the shampoo would get in my eyes. But I got through it and I was pretty proud when I got out. I remember feeling that way. Because it’s one of those minor things that mark your progression from a child to an adult. Moving from baths to showers. It’s a big deal. Someday it moves to drinking coffee. Another big deal that marks your passage to adultness. But I digress.
I don’t remember being potty-trained, nor do my parents remember potty training me, when I ask. But I do remember how I used to do it. I would go to the bathroom, do my business, then open the door and yell for my grandmother. Then she would come, I would bend over and she’d wipe me up. I tell you, that is real love. Someone who will wipe the nastiness out of your butt is someone that really loves you. That was my grandmother.
I started going to preschool at a really early age. I don’t remember how early but pretty early. The strange thing is, I started out life only knowing Korean. That’s all my parents spoke to me. Which makes it hard in preschool. My mom tells me in preschool all I would do when it became story time was sit in the corner while the other kids got in a circle and watched. And my teacher told my mom this and she would always ask if I wanted to go back and I always did. She also tells me my first English phrase I said while waiting with my teacher for my mom to pick me up. It was “I’m hungry.”
There’s very little I remember about preschool. But there’s this one incident that I do remember, it was some summer preschool and we went to a park and they were distributing lunchboxes (this was back in the days when everyone had lunchboxes. I don’t know if kids nowadays still have this. But it was a big deal when we got our first lunchboxes. We got old ones that used to belong to our relatives, the one that includes a Thermos in it.) and they came to mine, a DC Comics Superfriends lunch box, and I remember being really embarrassed about it. I don’t know what was “cool” back then, but it was the Superfriends, and I was really embarrassed. It’s funny to me what’s embarrassing to a kid. It’s stupid now, but I’m just embarrassed by different stupid things now. Anyway, it was embarrassing.
I also went to preschool for a while with Ronnie Verna. I mentioned this in a previous mymind. But it was strange because he was a year older, and we hung out before and after preschool (his mom picked us up and I hung out at his house) but not there. I remember thinking how strange that was even then. I think this started my disillusionment with friendship, and how so much of it is based on context. That just strikes the as odd. Here’s another related story. Me and Jeremy Nishihara were pretty close in elementary school. In Junior High, we went to different schools. 7th grade I was pretty much a loser and hung out with the other smart losers at my school. But the summer after 7th grade I was in this summer math program, taking Geometry, and it was very strange because that whole summer, I hung out with the cool people. 2 groups of people took this summer school: those who wanted to get ahead (nerds) and those who needed to catch up (dumb, and usually “cool”, people). So somehow on the bus I got into the cool people crowd and it was odd. I think it was because of Carla – what was her last name? Villareal? who was in band so she knew me although she was cool. She was special because most “cool” people in junior high don’t like talking to losers at all. But there are some genuinely nice people who are cool but don’t really care who they associate with so they will associate with losers too. Because they’re just honestly nice. Carla was one of those people. Of course after that summer we never talked really again. But for one summer, because of her, I was cool.
So the weird thing is, for one summer I hung out with cool people in the back of the bus, but Jeremy was also in this program and he hung out with losers (all the Asian nerds) in the front of the bus. This was very strange. It’s just weird what context does. I am old enough now that context doesn’t change how I interact with people, but it was more powerful in 7th grade.
Anyway, that summer was very influential on me. Because I had always been a loser before, so I wasn’t into things that others were. Like music. That summer I started listening to music. Like 97.7 FM. Paula Abdul was big. Also the New Kids on the Block had just released their second album and were still kind of new and cool. That was also the summer of Milli Vanilli. So I started listening to music that summer because that’s what all the other kids I hung out with did.
I guess it’s pretty clear that as a kid I had a very strong idea of what “cool” was, and was really conscious of it. It’s because I have always been aware that I am not part of the “cool” crowd. I guess in a way, I’ve always felt alienated from the “cool” culture, and that’s something that’s with me to this day. Maybe not everyone understands this. But I thought it was because I was smart. If you’re smart, you are a nerd. At least I thought so in elementary school. And nerds are certain things. Smart, but not cool, because they’re not athletic, they’re not as social, and not into those cool things. In fact, it was a big shock for me when I realized (in high school!) that smart people could be athletic also. Because none of my friends (the nerds) were athletic when I was growing up. I mean, we played sports, but just with ourselves. And I played soccer and all that. But there was always the understanding that smart people aren’t athletic. Also that they’re not cool. That there were cool smart people was another shock to me. This might have only happened in college. I don’t know if any of this makes sense to whoever might be reading it but it makes perfect sense to me. So I’ve always been alienated from the cool culture, but that didn’t bother me because I knew I was smart and they weren’t. When you find a cool smart person it just seems unfair, because they get to be smart and popular also. Not really fair. I think it was only in college that I really understood this, that there can be really intelligent, popular people.
I mean, what did you expect when you came to Stanford? Since you gotta be pretty smart (unless you’re an athlete) to come here, you’d think it’s filled with a bunch of nerds and losers. And of course there’s the fair share, but to some extent, the makeup of Stanford is a lot like the makeup of my high school (with girls). Like you have your nerds, your jocks, your drug addicts, your alternative people, whatever. I think it shocked me because only the nerds got into Stanford at my school. So it made me wonder where the others came from. In fact, I still don’t fully understand this. I always wonder what the drug addicts here were like in high school. Were they like the drug addicts at Bell? They couldn’t have been, or they wouldn’t have got here. So did they change here? Or are there people around the country that were like how they are now that were smart in high school? I don’t know. I just know that at my school, only one segment of the high school landscape (besides the swimmers) made it here, and some of them changed here, and it’s weird to me that the landscape of types is so complete here.
Anyway, I’ve always been conscious of not being cool. And I’ve always thought about it since I was young. I don’t think many people can understand this. Dave Hong can’t because he was once part of the cool culture. And he had older brothers. That always makes one cooler because they tell you what’s in and what’s out. Like I’m sure Dave got turned on to music at a really early age. I just wasn’t, and I never knew what was cool. And I never was. Cool, I mean. I think only a few oldest sons can understand this. Maybe Eric Yang. At any rate, if you can comprehend what I’m trying to say, you’ll understand me better. Because I’m still very bitter at popularity and the cool culture.
Which is why evangelism is particularly hard for me. But I’ll save that for another time.