Monday, December 2, 2013

Longing for Acceptence: Part 5 When a Tree Loses It's Limbs It Calls On It's Roots for Strength

In the beginning of any job, I am always worried about being accepted. When I would walk in the first day of any job, I would have this process of finding where I fit in. Suspicions and fears would arise about being fired or that bosses and coworkers didn't like me, felt that I didn't belong or didn't value my ability to do a job and do it well.I think that those thoughts stem all the way from educational experience.

Me in kindergarten in Laie
There is a vague memory of me going to first grade. I remember going to some elementary school in the town of Lā'ie, Hawai'i. It was my first day in first grade. For some unknown reason, I found myself staring at this older kid through the chain link fence. I must've been tired from the walk to school because my head didn't move from that staring position until the kid's hand came out his pocket and his middle finger and thumb stuck straight up in the air while the rest of his fingers crouched low. 

I didn't tell on him. I just started crying and ran home.
smiling always came easy for me
Sometime mid way through the school year, I remember moving from Hawai'i to West Valley City, Utah. My first memory in Utah was walking in the lunchroom to get my lunch and not knowing where to sit or get my discounted lunch tickets. Eventually, I found the place for my lunch tickets and a place to sit. I must've been nervous because I ate my lunch which included cheese squares and then vomited it up.
My home wasn't what I felt to be very accepting either. We lived with two Aunties, three Uncles, Grandpa, and Grandma. I remember always being nervous about getting on one of their nerves. 

In fact my most vivid memory of my paternal grandfather was being at a family prayer when he  called on me to say the prayer. I believe I was only about six years old. "I don't know how to pray," were the words that I forever regret saying that day. My grandfather then proceeded to hit me. Luckily my grandmother was in a defensive mood and protected me from excessive beatings. 
Another memory of the intimidation and nervousness that my grandfather caused me was the "cereal incident." I was pouring a bowl of Cheerios when he and my uncle came through the door. My bowl was full but I continued to pour while I stared at the two in the doorway. The overflowing food caught my grandfathers attention and he pointed made a sound. I was so startled by the attention to me that I quickly turned to recognize what I was doing and attempted to correct the situation. For some reason that day I didn't receive physical punishment.
Now, I don't tell these stories of my grandfather out of disrespect. In fact I love him very much. He was a very stern man that I sought  from but somehow never received it. I learned a lot of toughness from him. The reason for these stories is to show how I got to be a person who sought acceptance from everyone and also an urge to stay out of the limelight and almost be that wheel that is about to fall off but never squeaks for the grease. 

Dad and I coaching my brother's team
My grandfather moved back to Samoa but he wasn't the only one I sought acceptance from. I always made efforts to impress and be accepted by my dad. Whenever he asked me if I wanted to go help clean the theaters, I said yes even though there were times when I didn't want to.  When my father would wake me up, all he had to do was whisper and I would pop up like a prairie dog. Meanwhile my little brother, he would cry that he didn't want to go...(If he's reading this he's probably cracking up)

Sometimes it was hard to be accepted by him. Especially when playing football. One time, I remember playing corner in little league. My job, as corner, was to force the runner inside towards the other people on defense, or 'contain'. There was a play where the opposing team ran a sweep towards me. I always tried to do what the coach said so I didn't make the tackle, I just forced the runner inside by keeping 'contain'. The guy ran up inside and gained a crapload of yards. 

Cyprus Pirates Little League
After the game, my brother, my pops, and I were walking down the sidewalk. I could sense he was mad. He would have this look when he was mad. (looking back and laughing right now) I started to slow down and walk behind him. He said, "why didn't you get that tackle?" I said, "Because I was keeping contain." He said, "Why you walking back there? Come over here." I came up but stayed at arms length. One of his favorite questions, in my experience, after him asking you a question and you responding was, "Why are you talking back?" Or, "Did I ask you a question?" 

He then swung at me and I ran to just outside his reach. "Whiff," he missed. There are sooooo many stories like that. We, my siblings and I, tell them all the time and literally laugh out loud. That might be where I learned to look back at tough situations and laugh. It's super therapeutical.
Many people have commented that they were impressed that I smiled through the tragedy of losing my hands. I think I learned that through my mother's example but I also learned it through my Samoan Heritage. Samoans have an uncanny ability to go through difficulties yet still turn around after going through it and laugh at the story. My siblings and I tell many of our disciplinary stories and laugh uncontrollably.

My desire for acceptance led to a very difficult transition into middle school and an even worse transition into high school. I remember having to choose who to follow. My group of friends from elementary school began to split into factions. The divisions seemed to be along the lines of socioeconomic status and the lines of race. I remember some of my group of friends buying name brand clothes like Marithe Francois Girbaud, Guess, Nike, etc. I stuck with the kids in my socioeconomic status. The kids that wore pro-wings from Payless Shoes and got reduced price or free lunch tickets were the group I ran with because I felt accepted with my levi's and X-J900's.  At the same time, I thought, "This is stupid! Why can't we just all get along?" 

When I think about it now, I believe the divisions had more to do with relating to a persons home life experience. I remember once sleeping over at my Caucasian friend's house. We were playing 'MikevTyson's Punch Out' on Nintendo. It was the funniest thing I had ever seen because they would keep playing and playing but never letting me have a turn. I just wasn't used to that because in my house, sharing is emphasized. We, my family, aren't having fun unless everybody is having fun. In fact we usually play in a way that when you die one guy, it's the next persons turn. You can actually hear us cheering for each other. Experiences like that made me choose to side with other friends who were poor in monetary measurements but rich in compassion. I just needed people who I could relate to.

When entering into high school, the divisions began to be more and more by race. Being bicultural and not knowing how to speak Samoan, made my choices tough. I didn't feel like I was fully accepted by the 100% Samoans and I didn't have much in common with the Caucasian kids. My best fit was with Tongans. The ones in my school were very accepting and never spoke in Tongan in front of me out of courtesy.

College was a different story. I loved it because you could wear whatever you want and find someone that would accept you. When I graduated and went into the workforce I still had that longing for acceptance.
I took this longing for acceptance and disability to ask for help or express myself into line work. It is a dangerous combination. I have already mentioned the trench story and Ely Gelynus in a previous blog but there are other stories.
One weekend, when I was in my first year of the line trade,  my crew was working at Hill Air Force base in Ogden, Utah. Another crew, the WRC or Wasatch Restoration Crew, was working with us to help get a job done while the power was on a planned outage. The WRC was considered by me to be the top dogs in the whole Wasatch Electric company. To me, if line work was a high school then they would be considered the football team captains. I wanted to show them that I belonged so I ran everywhere. It was hot and I was sweating like bacon in a frying pan. I remember one of my coworkers saying, "they are running you like a Hebrew slave." My supervisor, Steve Bethers, complimented me on how hard I was working that day. While I received that compliment a tears of pride came out my eyes that were hiding behind dark safety glasses. The feelings I felt must've been similar to those of Knowshon Moreno, an American football player, in the video to the right, except not so much water. I was glad I was sweating so much that nobody could tell it was a tear. 
If there were poles that needed climbed, I was running to put my hooks on. When there was a hole to dig, I was the first to grab the shovel. A good apprentice doesn't have to ask what to do. He is following along and anticipating what the next move is and before being asked, he's doing it. Before linework I thought my dad was the hardest and most efficient worker ever but after my apprenticeship I saw many line workers a few steps ahead. It is peasant to work with a good apprentice because they are very helpful. In fact, I wish everyone could learn to work like a lineman. In fact it bugs me when they don't anticipate and do work without being asked.
With all this hustling that day, I jumped in a hole to relieve my friend from digging. The top of the hole was a little higher than elbow high. When I jumped in I landed on my right elbow. It was bruised and later on I knew I had fractured the bone. I remember trying to sleep that night. My elbow was throbbing. 
I had felt that feeling before. When I was in fifth grade, I fractured my collar bone making a game saving tackle at recess. 
The Gash
Of course I never told any one. I didn't want to be the squeaky wheel. The companies always complain about paperwork and I didn't want to cost the company a Workers Compensation case. Worst of all, I wanted to be accepted and didn't want to be fired.
Later on in my apprenticeship, while stripping wire for a capacitor bank, my knife slipped off the end of a wire and hit my thigh. I didn't think anything of it until I noticed a breeze in my Carhartt pants. My knife had cut through my pants, my long johns and my underwear. I could feel blood trickling out the gash in my leg. 

I didn't tell anyone. At night I looked at the gash and I felt it needed stitches. I was so afraid of the incident being a Workers Compensation case that I didn't go see a doctor. I simply bought and applied liquid band aids and butterfly band aids. Luckily I didn't get an infection.
Through my amputations I have learned to recognize this need for acceptance and attempt to put it where it belongs, in the garbage can lol. I am grateful for this lesson learned through the hardship of being a bilateral amputee. My psychologist and I continue to work on my transformation from the silent wheel that's about to fall off into the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Along with that, the best advocate for you is yourself.

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