When life throws you lemons, make lemonade.

My 20-year-old brother believes the reason for his failures in life (lack of instant gratification from college, no job, mom refuses to let him marry unless he gets a job) is because of our parents’ divorce 14 years ago.  It’s because of this divorce that many people look down on him, which in turn, causes him to fail in life.  He wondered why his parents couldn’t stay together for his sake so he wouldn’t have turned out a failure as he did.

I responded: Do you think it would have benefit us children if our parents stayed together even though they were unhappy with each other, especially when there was abuse?  I would rather grow up in a single-parent home (like we did) than one where you witness your father smash your mother’s head to the door, and he ends up in jail while your mom gets stitches on her forehead (like we also did).  If our parents had stayed together for our sake, we probably would’ve been worse off.

I also added that whether he believes he fails or succeeds is not up to other people to decide.  So, whether they look down on him, respect him or not, it’s his life decisions, his actions that pave the way to either success or failure.  It’s how he deals with people’s criticisms that will either make him or break him.

My not-so-little-anymore brother has always thought he is the only one suffering, the only one unhappy, the only one invisible, the only failure.  I try to remind him that anyone can experience life’s hardships and that he is not alone in his battles.  Does it really mean someone is happy and successful just because that person appears that way?

If you were to make a judgment on what kind of hardships I’ve been through or is currently going through by taking a look at my appearance, what I write on my social networking sites, and what I’ve disclosed to others, you would probably say I have it good.  You would probably think that I’m fortunate enough to go through 26 years of life without dealing with any of life’s major problems.  No financial struggles.  No deaths the family.  No burden.  No stress.  Yes, I live a life anyone would dream of living: a happily blissful life with Dear Spouse and children, waking up with a smile every day because life is oh-so-wonderful!  What do I know about struggles?

Let’s start with: I’m a private person.  There are only a few people I fully disclose my frustrations, unhappiness, fears, and failures to: Dear Spouse, sisters, and best friends.  If the rest of the world don’t ask me, I don’t tell.  And even if they did, I would only skim the surface of my problems.  So, many would get the impression that I live a stress-free, no-worries life.

That is wrong.  Just because I don’t disclose every little bump in my life online or in person doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  I have as much hardships as the next person.  In my opinion, what or how many hardships you have don’t—shan’t—matter.  What matters most is what you do with the lemons life hands you.

If I was to count all the problems I’m currently going through, people would be surprised.  They would never think that happy MB would be going through something like that.  Or they would say that I’m making all this up.

I shall name a few:

I got laid off 4 years ago and haven’t been back to work since.  I sometimes feel like a failure because I feel financially dependent on Dear Spouse.  I graduated from college but I am doing nothing with my degree that pays money (and trust me, people don’t let that go and always find an opportunity to push it in my face).  My dear spouse and I are having financial struggles with only one income.  I don’t work because we don’t have anyone to babysit our children nor can we afford child care.  My brother has acute leukemia.  My other brother (mentioned above) left home to be with his girlfriend with no money and no plans—and he didn’t even tell us.  It may not seem like a lot to people, but they are my hardships, so no matter how big or small someone may think they are, they still matter.

Even though I have these problems, I try not to let them get to me.  I like to make lemonade out of my lemons.  Not having a job has given me the blissful opportunity to stay at home with my children.  I’ve been spoiled being a stay-at-home mother and wife and it would be wonderful if I could do it until my children go off to college.  And although Dear Spouse and I struggle to pay our bills each month, we make sacrifices and always manage.  I have learned to tightly budget.  My brother’s leukemia has taught me that life is very unexpected and to cherish those I love.  And even though I struggled to understand why he refuses to take treatment, I’ve come to terms that it’s his life and he decides how he wants it done.  My philosophy is the same for my other brother.  All I can do is express my opinions, advise him, and then let him live his life—not because I believe or want to see him fail (because I don’t), but because who am I to tell him how to live his life.

I don’t complain about how unfair life is for me because I know that somewhere out there, someone is worse off than I am.  Actually, when I wake up in the morning, I don’t think about how awful my life is or how unfair life has been to me.  (Such as: Why did my parents get divorced?  Why do people treat me differently after my father left?  Why are the Hmong so stubborn to drop traditional norms that suppress women’s rights?  Why does my brother have cancer?  Why is child care so expensive?  Why?  Why?  Why?)  I take it day by day.  I am just thankful that I can spend each day with the people I love, doing the things I want to do.  And with this, I can truly say I am happy, regardless of the struggles I’m facing.

The point of this blog is not to discuss my life problems or brag about how I can successfully deal with them or to say that your problems don’t matter, but to remind you that everyone has a story to tell.  Everyone carries a burden, a scar, a baggage.  You may think you’re the only one struggling and no one out there understands.  You’re not.  Those you yearn to be like, whose success and happiness you envy, probably carry some kind of hardship with them every day.  Just because you don’t see it or they choose not to show it doesn’t mean it’s not there.  When life throws us lemons, there are those who complain about how unfair it is, but do nothing about it.  Then, there are those who choose to make lemonade and sell them for 50 cents a cup, reminding themselves that they’re not the only ones with lemons.

Note: My brother has gotten a job after the drafting of this blog post.

10 thoughts on “When life throws you lemons….

  1. Hi Mb, what a great attitude to have. Once I receive the same advice too, when your life gives you lemon, make lemonade! Struggle, hardship, loss is all part of life, but there’s also joy, happiness, smile and laughter. It’s all how we perceive it and makes the best of it. I too have my own struggle, as open book as I am as person, there are few things I kept to myself, especially my hardship. Life is hard as it is, no need to bring everybody around me down just because I am. Although, a wise person once told me that there will be others struggling more than you do, but it doesn’t mean that your pain doens’t count.


    1. Yes. It doesn’t mean that your pain doesn’t count. I hope this post didn’t come out as my brother’s sufferings don’t count, because they do. I just want to remind everyone to not think you’re suffering alone or that no one understands.


  2. MaiBao, your latest post is not just eye-opening but also you are one tough person. I am amazed that you can still pull yourself together when life gives you lemons. No matter what, you are strong.


  3. And you are blogging, which is important. Articulating on a specific subject, finding meaning and learning from it. Occasionally interacting with readers.

    I was unemployed for 18 months and it’s harder to land a full-time job while competing with others. But now in a different province, not my choice place.

    During the job search, I started to take up blogging to simply learn another content management skill to add to existing (larger, more complex) software platforms that I have designed for.

    It reawakened my love of writing, visuals and telling a story.

    So now I write for …4 different blogs each for different purposes –in addition to a full-time job.

    So blogging is your non-Mommy time. Make the most of it.


    1. Thank you for your beautiful comment. Blogging is my non-Mommy time. I used to journal as a kid and blogged from time to time, but wasn’t serious about it–that is–until I got laid off and was left with time on my hand. Now blogging is a part of my life.


  4. MB, your family situation is so similar to mine. I am the oldest of 7 children and my parents divorced 5 yrs ago b/c of domestic violence (towards the my siblings and me also). Was there violence in your home after ur dad left? After my father left, my home has been the same like my father was there. My siblings and I were the violent ones. -Jackie Yang


    1. My siblings and I are having a hard time adjusting to our Hmong community’s views, and developing peace after having been scar by our father mentally, verbally and physically.


    2. The cycle of violence continues, from one generation to the next, even after the abuser leaves. This is because abuse/violence is a learned behavior and the only way to stop violence is to acknowledge it and change it.


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