5 Things That Helped Make Me A Better Person

With all that's happening in the news and world lately, it got me pondering about what helped me become the empathetic, more open-minded person I am today. Thinking back to my childhood, I was very conservative and would probably label myself a bigot, so how did I become a better person? Well, here are five things that I think helped shaped me into who I am today.

1. Moving to The City

I spent the first few years of my childhood in rural Missouri in a little town in the middle of nowhere. It would not be until many years later that I come to realize just how racist and bigoted this town was.

The summer before I would be starting the third grade, my family moved to a small city in Wisconsin. As a kid, I remember hating the move because I had to leave my family and friends, and I struggled to make friends in my new school as I was the "new kid" and very shy. It was around high school I became thankful for my parents' decision to move. If I had not moved to the city, I may have turned out just as racist and bigoted as a lot of my family members and old classmates, or I may have become the victim of their racism and bigotry. 

The city exposed me to more races and cultures than rural white America ever could, and I believe that helped my empathy grow as I was able to get to know people from all different walks of life.

2. My Own Experience With Racism

Of course, being Asian American, I still grew up hearing common racial stereotypes. It was not something I could escape, even in the city. I was never physically attacked, but I experienced microaggressions. 

I got the classic kids trying to make "Asian Eyes" and was asked if I was smart, good at math and science, and later in college, I discovered people thought Asian women had tight vaginas (yikes!). 

My experience with racism, though I wish it had never happened, allowed me to be more empathetic to other ethnic groups. These things that were said to me were untrue, so why should I believe what other people say about any other race or culture? 

3. Manga & Anime

I was raised Catholic so, of course, I was taught to be against gay marriage. I remember in CCD a kid made a mean comment: "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," and for some reason, this stuck with me. I remember saying it to someone else and was told it was mean, so I think that's when I started to question it a bit, but it was not until I developed an obsession with manga and anime in high school that my opinion really changed. 

Books and media in America in the 90's avoided gay relationships like the plague. Even when they took shows from Japan, they "Americanized" it. There was a Pokemon episode that was never aired because James dresses as a woman. In Sailor Moon, they made Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus cousins (in the original they were a couple), and they never aired the 5th season due to the Starlights being men that turned into women. 

Once I got into manga and anime, I was opened to so many different relationships. My first anime that featured a gay couple was Gravitation and I think that's what caused me to completely change my view on homosexual relationships and marriage. 

So huge thank you to manga and anime for helping me realize love is love!  

4. Becoming a Mother

Being raised Catholic, I was also taught to be against abortion (I hate the term pro-life). This actually stuck with me through college. I've read stories of abortion survivors and watched October Baby. Their messages stuck with me, and I still don't fully agree with late-term abortions (22+ weeks) unless medically necessary, but I do believe in safe abortions.

It was not until I became a mother that I made this switch though. I was struggling with a newborn and had this anxiety of what would happen if I got pregnant again? I could not handle another baby when I was barely able to take care of myself and my new baby. 

Then when my daughter was three, I had my first pregnancy scare. We were using protection, but my period was two weeks later than usual. Thankfully it turned out I was just really late (thanks a lot PCOS), but I remember telling my husband that if I was pregnant, I wouldn't keep it. My mental health could not handle another child. That was also when I truly knew I was one and done

5. Social Media

While Social Media has influenced me in many ways, I think the biggest impact it had was on my view of sex. It started with the #MeToo movement, which caused me to reflect and realize that I had been sexually assaulted

This realization really fueled my desire to learn more about consent and criticize sex education in America. I grew up with scare tactics (STD slide shows) and teachers heavily stressed abstinence-only. They mentioned other birth control methods, but we were never showed how to put on a condom. We were never even shown or told how to have sex, so sadly most of what I learned came from porn. Parents, let this be a warning to you, if you are unwilling to have the "sex talk" with your kids beyond "Don't do it," porn is what kids will turn to. Consent was also never taught in schools.

Soon I found myself following sex educators on Instagram (listed below). It was really eye-opening as to how little I knew as an adult in my late twenties (now early thirties) about consent and sex! As I mentioned before, I was raised in a Catholic family. Merely mentioning sex would cause my mom to freak out. My dad might have been slightly better. I remember he took a bolt and nut and tried to show us how sex was done. It was not very helpful, but it makes for a funny story, so thanks, dad.

You might have already guessed it, but yup, I was raised to be a virgin until marriage. All the adults around me made sex out to be this dirty, sinful thing, that should only be done when married. Well fuck them, do it (safely of course)! I won't lie. It feels great and if God didn't want you to have sex, well then he shouldn't have made it feel so good, so that's God's fault.

I think this realization of how little I did not know, despite being married, is what caused me to become frustrated with media and books, as that's where I sadly learned most of what I knew. A lot of the relationships in fiction lacked safe, healthy sex, and consent was thrown out the window. The couples always seemed to have amazing sex, and that's just not the case all the time. Newer books are improving in these areas, but movies still often fail. (Frozen did have one good moment where Kristoff asks Anna if he may kiss her.) As a result, I started my own side blog examining and criticizing consent and sex in fiction: Consensual Fiction

Instagram Accounts To Follow:

Final Thoughts

I share this with you all to show that people can change their opinions. I was conservative once but now would classify as more liberal. I went from being Catholic to agnostic (I believe in God, but religion is too cult-like and corrupt). 

It frustrates me when people bring up past things that people said or did and hold it against them because that was once me. I once believed those things too, but now I don't and to say because I did in the past means I do now, is just completely false. We are human. We never stop learning, growing, or changing until the day we die.

Honestly, I wish I had gotten there sooner in all of these areas, but I also give myself grace in that escaping the kind of upbringing I had was not an easy journey. 

Luckily, as a mom now, I have the chance to raise my daughter to be more empathetic and open to others without the pressure of religion. Society may still be a challenge, but I will do my best to fight back. My daughter will also get the sex education I lacked because now I am in charge, and I plan to tell her everything I can. 

Empathy is learned, so it is very important that children are given resources to develop their empathy. Travel is one way to help kids see there's more to the world than just your small town. Books are another resource. Diversify your child's bookshelf with books about various different races, cultures, religions, and sexualities. When they notice differences, don't shut them down, talk about them instead. Tear apart the stereotypes and encourage them to be friends with people of all colors and sexualities.

Let's raise the next generation to be kinder, more accepting, and more loving.