WP2 Archive — The Influence of Family

My intellectual identity — WP2
14 min readOct 12, 2020


My personal intellectual journey, objectively has been ignited from the differences of people who have created the biggest impacts on my life. It’s through the frustration from not understanding their perspectives that prompts me to look deeper at my own views and come to a level of understanding. Ultimately why I’m able to intellectually evolve is through the exposure of their challenges and my relationship to them. Despite coming from a family background of a multitude of religions and cultural differences, I never claimed one to identify with. I in fact, have realized that bits and pieces have come together to form what I believe in.

Below, I outline my individual relational experiences between my father, my grandmother, my step sister Mira, and half sister Vera. From the experience of the beginning of one’s life to the experience of one’s death, their affect on my personal intellectual journey remains parallel. At the end of each person’s section, I included a song that reflects either some aspect of the selected family member’s personality or the emotional feeling that the relationship elicits.

My Father

My father has always had a fascination with old things, especially if it’s extra ugly — his words not mine. In every city we travel to, he takes pictures of the things like the facade of old doors or fraying street signs, but nothing quite matches up to his enchantment towards vintage cars. His constant references to the car chase scenes in the movies of the like of The Italian job (1969)remain endless, and much like in the movie where the characters have their eyes set on gold, he remains vigilant in his own endeavors.

One of my father’s vintage VW buggies

Looking at his fascination, I always wondered why he was so utterly obsessed with cars that were so objectively ugly. I remember distinctly asking my father to drop me off a block from school just so my classmates couldn’t see what my dad was driving. That being said, something that has always been a block in my intellectual journey was the fear of judgement from other people. Within that fear, it has also hindered my capability in asking others for help even if it brings me to the brink of stressful hysteria.

For most of my life, I’ve been hyperaware of my surroundings, as I would try my best to not stick out for the fear that someone would take notice and automatically assume things about me. The insecurity I felt was a similar attitude my father had mentioned he felt through most of his life. What he passed on to me however was that as one ages, the heightened fear of judgement lessens when more joy is discovered through passion. So, the judgement that I shy away from, he embraces as keeping himself intellectual satiated and happy is more important. He explained that driving in an old car, is like viewing a snapshot of the past, all its little scratches and fading paint shows character. Besides the physical aspect, he also likes to use the car as an excuse to drive with his kids, as this is how he bonds with each one of my siblings and me. It is clear that he is drawn to the cars for sentimental value which holds the level of importance.

Through my insecurity and the fear of the exposure of vulnerability, I struggle to not inflate a situation, the reality of it is that I am the only thing getting in the way of myself. Every time where I’ve hit a point of the lack of passion, whether it was a big project or a paper that supposedly determined my future my dad would be there to tell me, it wasn’t the end of the world because I associated the objective idea of success to my self worth. I always hated hearing that because in that moment, it might just felt like the end of the world( it was usually the case of a bad grade, or a wrong impression on someone). But, at some point there can only be so many “end of the worlds”, I had to accept the fact that most things did not go perfectly. More importantly, not letting it become a block to continue, or the fear of judgement stand in the way.

Many people have heard of the saying “live today as if it’s your last day” but to be able to actively apply this statement takes courage on its own. This attitude he carried out on not caring what other’s thought of him carries through all aspects of his daily life. I always admired his ability to catch the attention of everyone talking to him because he was so utterly passionate about what he spoke about. His passion in biomimicry and native language preservation, although obscure to other’s only prompted active questioning. It’s clear that people can recognize a passionate person and act as curious beings and not as inherently judgmental.

My father and me

For most of my adolescence, I always rested in my comfort zone looking at my father as an unattainable example shrouded in my lack of self confidence, but as I’ve been able to observe the joy that he has been able to advocate for and actively procure, I’ve noticed that most of the blocks that hinder my confidence are merely superficial as a way of preserving an fabricated “image”.

When I’ve really recognized things that bring joy to me, that trumps the fear of judgement. I was able to internalize and put into effect of his words towards the middle of my high school career, as I began express myself through the creation of art, which I had rarely had the confidence to show to anyone.

A painting of his buggy by me
A piece created in senior year

By the time I had hit senior year, I had created a rather large repertoire as I’ve become a person that other’s would ask for help in with their own artistic endeavors. I had collaborated and helped lead a project that consisted the creation of two murals on the racism and inequality in the education system, which was presented in The Museum of African Diaspora (MOAD) in San Francisco. This project was monumental for my intellectual development as the words my father had told me, to put passion over the fear of judgement, was finally initiated and helped me thrive and explore my own interests. From there, I began dabble in my other artistic interests in the creation of music and pursue my curiosity in the media form of film.

Song that goes with my dad’s character: Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros by Flight of the Concords

My father has always loved Flight of the Concords for their humor and their lyricism, this song in particular is quite reflective of his sense of humor and would often involve him dancing to it whenever my mood was down.

My Grandmother, PuoPuo

From left to right, Belle(my aunt), Yaya(my aunt), Gonggong(my grandpa), Puopuo(my grandma), my mother

In the 9 years I had known my grandmother before her death, I had never seen her angry. This was mostly due to the fact that she was the most selfless person I had ever been in the presence of. In my family, she was synonymous for her handy skills in sewing/patchwork and for her cooking. The fruits of her labour would always be gifted to everyone who passed her door and even through chemotherapy, when she struggled to have the energy to stand, she continued her act of giving.

I’ve always looked to her as role model and aimed to follow her steps as a person who was more that herself. Some worries however always arose, I always thought, what if I gave someone all my words of kindness and gratitude and they could still take it for granted or take advantage of my generosity?

As I observed my family deteriorate the months after her death it was clear she had been like the glue holding everyone together. Arguments that would previously feel unnecessary, would arise. What she projected, which was pure gratitude and joy, is quite difficult find in a lot of people, so watching the effect she held on my family, and therefore the lack of it, I was able to gauge the importance of her character. She was able to find joy in making other people happy on her own terms and people were able to recognize that even when she was gone. Through her, I was able to understand there’s no point in putting energy into anger as it only causes more conflict. As an intellectually evolving person, there are times where it is difficult to dissipate anger when it may seem situationally unfair or expectations are not met. However, anger is apart of human nature, when the body recognizes a threat it is implemented as a defense mechanism. As us humans have evolved, the reaction of anger is no longer needed, and if anything it can cause additional stressors to the body. Within my intellectual journey as influenced by my grandmother, I’ve come to the consensus that anger is a non essential feeling.

All my memories withheld with her were times I felt true happiness, from the her Chinese cooking on every holiday, to listening to her sing during my family’s karaoke sessions. It’s unfortunate that I only knew her in the early years of my adolescences but she continues to be an example of pure selflessness and an example for me to follow.


Tian Mi Mi by Teresa Teng

This song used to be what my Puo puo would always sing during Karaoke at her house. It roughly translates to sweet as honey.

My sister Mira

Our first Halloween together

My initial impression of my step-sister Mira was that she didn’t care what people thought of her. The very first night I had met her, she led me by the hand to her room and preceded to grab a bottle of black paint and smudge it over her entire room, herself, and me…a rather interesting introduction to a girl she first met. From then, I recognized she was just as chaotic and stubborn as I was, which made it very easy for us to clash and engage in competition. Despite both of us being strong willed, we easily became inseparable and support systems for each other. My relationship with her always went through phases of deep admiration to being at each other’s throats, which is generally reflective of most relationships with siblings. Before her, I had been a single child living with my father and I yearned for another presence in my life that I could take under my wing.

With Mira, I basked in the attention she provided. I had gotten used to being constantly looked up to and having someone who fully supported the idea that what I did was important. This oftentimes rubbed off as pure imitation of my every action which I adamantly tried to negate but it nevertheless had created a sense of confidence within myself. As we both acclimated to being each other’s first sibling, I had to teach myself patience as I was no longer purely a follower of my parent’s word, and act as role model to her. Although this had been a wish of mine, I did not realize the level of responsibility it took, especially because I still felt unclear with my own judgement in maturity. Nevertheless, though trial and error, I was able to develop as a role model and a positive influence for her, which ultimately progressed my intellectual journey.

In Manhattan a few days after we met

At the age of 12, Mira began to gain a stronger sense of independence and maturity, therefore her relationship to me began to be less dependent. The realization that she needed to grow on her own, at her own pace was painful to think, especially since it felt as if a piece of my identity was being taken away, as selfish as that may sound. I was subconsciously creating boundaries for her as she tried to follow my exact steps, when I was still trying to discover who I was and mature at my own pace.

She had taken a subconscious initiative that provided both of us space to grow. The evolution of my relationship with Mira contributed to my intellectual journey through self maturity, as a patient and conscious thinker, within the framework of a role model to another person. With this, I gained a stronger sense of independence tangentially to Mira.

Song for Mira:

Like Summer by Kyan

This song is representative of the different stages of my relationship with Mira as it evolved.


The summer before senior year I was sprung up with the news that my stepmom was pregnant again after 7 years from having my twin half brother and sister. Given the news, I was overcome with a strong wave of resentment and the growing girl inside her stomach already had been banished from my umbrella of admiration. Her birth was one of the most emotional feats in my intellectual journey since I had never experienced such an intense feeling of animosity that affected my own personal character. For the first few months of her life, I refused to interact with her, even to the point of not going to dinner when my parents would bring her down. I had convinced myself that if I ignored her existence, I could somehow make her disappear.

It was clear that my attitude towards Vera, however, was beginning to affect my family, yet I lacked the initiative to change my actions. I was in my senior year of high school and the level of cortisol in my system was through the roof with the looming future of college and wrapping up my secondary school career. I hadn’t taken notice of how serious the matter was as my family was dealing with my sudden change in persona, if anything my anger came across as an outlet to spite my parents.

I had not reached the level of emotional maturity in my intellectual journey yet and it was apparent to the outside perspective. Within the following months, my demeanor had reached an emotionally shut-off state. I forgot to slow down and think about the discrepancy I was emanating as I pushed through the piles of school work, as most nights I would burn the midnight oil. With this, My father and stepmother had posed an intervention (taking place before her birth and through the first months),which entailed strongly advising the attendance of therapy. At first, I refused to allow the dissection and analysis of my emotional blockage. I recognized that my intellectual journey had come to a halt as I observed the identity of my family being re-written with Vera in the narrative, where new memories were being created without waiting on my inclusion. As the conversations within the sessions allowed a space of free speech and a clearer headspace, the outside perspective that I needed was finally visible.

Vera and my stepmother Anya

It was very challenging for me to recognize why I had such an intense disregard for a baby, since that inclination goes against human nature. I had experienced the birth of siblings before and had a very different and enjoyable experience.

Through these sessions, I was able to put words to my feelings which lifted some of the weight of confusion off my shoulders. The reasoning entailed the notion that I was about to embark on the first step into adulthood and facing the unknown, supposedly on my own, was terrifying. I had envisioned my space in the fabric of my family as a safety net and her new existence threw off my mental picture. Furthermore, my sense of grounded-ness was kicked out the door, since I already felt comfortable with the dynamics of my family. Part of me had some feeling of envy towards her experience of the beginning of life in the comfort of adolescence, while I had finished that chapter of my life without having a choice on that matter, putting me in a very vulnerable state.

I inevitably had to make a decision for myself. Would I take the path of ignoring her existence and create a deep fracture in my family? or would I re-evaluate my reasonings and swallow my pride?

I took the latter.

This point elevated my intellectual understanding of emotional awareness, and therefore interwoven into the actions within my intellectual journey. Through passing time, I discerned that I could not suppress my emotions and expect the people around me to just endure it on my fault. I had lost some of the past lessons I had learned from my father, grandmother, and Mira. The re-introduction although proved to be a very difficult in the beginning, was worth the while as I found a new sense of happiness in her existence.

What I took away from my personal analysis of self awareness within a bigger “team” was that I am more than myself, and if I value keeping peace within a family that I seek for support, collaboration is needed. Through this phase of observation of my intellectual identity, I was able to recognize the impact of negativity, as the awareness of emotions are clear to others and creates distress, which takes up space for positive emotional development. When I was able to overcome my own growth and letting go of what is comfortable, the fissure in my family began to repair. In fact, Vera’s first name ever uttered was mine, which has shown the long way I have come.

Mira with Vera


Miroirs III. une barque sur l’ocean by André Laplante

This piece has always been a favorite of mine because it feels tumultuous yet calm. The lack of words are reflective of the lack of explanation my feelings felt throughout my relationship with Vera

The idea of family is subjective for anyone as one can decide how much they value their relationships. For me, I am fortunate enough that my family works as a guiding point towards my own journey. My relationship to my father, my grandmother, Mira, and Vera aided my metamorphic transitions of character within my intellectual journey. Within the short period between life and death and everything in between, the snapshots to my family’s journey of their own lives work in parallel to mine.

My experiences have prompted me not to lose sight of what’s important and exposed the idea to no let small inconveniences get the better of my character. Judgement and anger act as inhibitors to focusing on the bigger picture in fulfilling my sense of happiness. My family has contributed largely to my emotional development which has supported my intellectual evolution.

The internalization of these epiphanies still needs constant reassurance as human emotions are still bound to occur. It is important in those moments of insecurity and anger, to be able to recognize them as things that I can work past. My intellectual journey would not reach the depth without their insights to their own morals. I think of their teachings as a cheat code, where I’m fortunate enough to have someone who already has gone through challenges to be able to provide their words of wisdom. That doesn't go to say that I will fully and unwaveringly implement the lessons uncovered by my interactions, but over time my understanding will provide more frequent self evaluation.