I spent the holidays in sunny Florida, visiting my semi-retired parents. The Monday after Christmas, I took a drive over to Apple Jelly Studio to have a pole play with some of my favorite Floridians (thanks Kelly Blake and Kim Mancini for their hospitality, as always, and the lovely Sarah Jade for coming out to play!!). The skies were blue with fluffy clouds, the weather a perfect breezy and balmy 80 degrees, and the sun was shining as I got into the car.
I love driving but living in Manhattan, I rarely have the opportunity. In a past life, I worked for a company that rented super exotics and drove Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Porsches (yes, stick shift, and yes, very fast) nearly every day. There’s something about getting into a car, pumping cheesy tunes, and rolling the windows down that puts me in a state of complete relaxation and focus. The way that some people find running to be meditative, I enjoy the wind in my hair and the steady hum of pavement passing under me. And passing. I love passing.
Cruising down the super-flat highways with a 75 MPH limit (bless Florida!) put me in a state of reflective thought. Looking in the rear-view mirror, I saw plastered on the back windshield a literal avalanche of window stickers that proudly proclaimed every learning institution that me and my brothers have been accepted to: US Marine Corps, Columbia, and a handful of other bold-faced letters proudly took up almost the entire bottom half of the back window.
My parents are both very traditional Korean-American, first-generation immigrants. They have always been proudest of our academic accomplishments, but I’ve had a really tumultuous relationship with them. When I was in high school, I had a serious rebellion. Cops, curfews, lockdowns, and huge arguments were a regular fixture in our lives because of that, and things were really rocky. It got super dicey for a while and it didn’t look like I would leave home for college on speaking terms with my parents, but over the years we have gradually healed our relationship and come to understand one another much better. I am able to see past pride and the desire to be right, and to see my parents for who they really are: two people who have only ever loved, and wanted the best for me, despite what I thought that might be at any given time.
I have never explicitly told my father that I pole dance. I would tell my mother (who was always a little more of my ally) that I was taking “yoga” until after a few years, I just couldn’t tell her that little white lie anymore. I wanted her to know what I did, and to support the truth of it. I sent her videos and because of the strength in our relationship, she was able to see that I wouldn’t be involved in this activity unless it was truly rewarding and worthwhile. Even though she was wary, and wasn’t quite sure that this was what her “respectable” daughter should be involved in, she trusted me. And can I just tell you: really, for a Korean mom to accept this, was beyond huge.
As the years have gone by, my mother, on her own time and in her own way, has filled my father in on my hobby, passion, and part-time job (teaching). I don’t know how she managed to ease that one in, but I know that as pole dancing has become more popular, she has become one of my strongest advocates. When people go on nationally televised talent shows and pole dance, she finds the YouTube links and sends them to me, asking me if I’ve seen them. Gradually, slowly, my parents have shifted to understand the difficulty, challenge, and even beauty in what I do.
This past holiday, at a post-Christmas dinner, my father asked me at the dinner table what I thought of pole dancing in the Olympics. He listened to my thoughts, and provided measured, thoughtful responses of his own, asking more questions and trying to really learn. My brothers and I have, randomly enough, bonded over a love of Crossfit training techniques and we trash talk on a regular basis as to who is able to do what. My mom asks me how classes are going and understands how teaching has transformed into a future graduate degree. I am so lucky to have the support, trust, and love from my family that I do. It’s enough to make a girl tear up.
Driving down that highway a couple weeks back, 80 degree air whipping in my hair, on my way to visit pole friends many miles from home, I felt grateful. Looking in the rearview mirror, I saw plastered there my father’s love and pride in his children. Looking forward, I saw an open road. And as I step into an uncertain future, I know that I have support, and it will take me everywhere I want to go.
Tomorrow’s post: Thursday Tunes…