Yuliana Kim-Grant
New York, NY

Illustration by
Rachel Suen


There you stand, straddling a divide as wide as the Amazon River during the wet season. This distance, between the young woman who had tried so hard to make her parents proud and the young woman desperate to love and live her own life, may feel too immense a challenge to bridge for someone who never felt very courageous. The decision to follow your heart and stand up for your relationship will be the most important decision of your life. No matter how angry and angry you are by your parent's rejection of your African-American boyfriend, trust me when I say that a child can end up teaching her parents to be the better version of themselves. Try to keep your heart open enough to forgive them their ignorance. Hard as it may be to believe at this moment, they will surpass all of your hopes and expectations for them to love you as you are, not for the perfect image they've crafted in their minds.

This one decision will be the first of so many other courageous decisions you will make in living your own life, each one drastic, profound, painful, and oh so beautiful. One thing I can guarantee is if you do stand on the side of your own desires, you will live a life without the regrets of what-ifs. Instead, your regrets -- an unavoidable condition of living -- will be of your own making and choosing, which is far more desirable than the other option.

While I understand your impatience to get on with it now that you’ve decided to live your own life, you will discover the journey is much more meaningful than the final destination. It is the detours, if you have the bravery to take them, will lead you to where you should be, as opposed to where you want to be. This distinction may be lost to you at this moment, much like most of what I have to offer. Here's the thing about that: it's quite all right to not get any of this, since any lesson that will resonate has to be learned by experience.

Flexibility of mind, spirit, and body will be your best defense and your best friend, since one certainty about life is that it is always unpredictable, as it should be. The unpredictability, however challenging, will shape and change you and the contours of your life.

Courage, I've learned, is not about the genetic blessing of being unafraid to jump off tall, jagged cliffs or wrestle crocodiles, but something much more complicated and heartbreakingly beautiful. Your fears about choosing your boyfriend over your parents are warranted, but there are times in life when you have to push against your inborn fears. This is one of those moments. Courage is the internal mechanism, sometimes accrued and nurtured over a lifetime, that enables you to admit defeat and, more importantly, pushes you to get up again to face whatever may be ahead. Trust me when I say true courage is a much more quiet thing than we are led to believe. It lies in the narrow space where your sensitivity and vulnerability become indomitable forces and fuels for accomplishment.

Like most 25-year-olds, you think yourself an expert in heartache. I can't disagree. However, the heartaches you've suffered don’t mean you won’t be loved in the future, and loved deeply. Heartaches are as varied as the shapes of the stars above, no two ever alike. With each passage you move through in life, heartache mutates and changes. It may resemble the heartache intimately acquainted with pain: a failed relationship, a lost friendship, a parent's disapproval, or the quiet that makes your loneliness so acute. But heartache can appear unexpectedly during the happiest moments of your life: getting married, having a child, achieving the long-worked-for accomplishment of graduate school. Each of these fleeting moments leads to the inevitable letdown of realizing that your life and your personhood remain the same. These joyous moments also make you vulnerable to the potential loss. However, a life that is lived without regrets only means that your inflexibility and failed courage has kept you from making all the left-hand turns in the road.