Eat Bitter

I listen to a lot of podcasts. To be honest, it's probably too many podcasts, but since I've been in constant pain, reading is difficult and my comprehension is worse. Even reading long form articles is difficult. For whatever reason, I do better hearing the words. I think the inflection given by the speaker helps me with the context and subtext I miss when trying to read.

Bitch Magazine's podcast Popaganda is one of my favorites. The editor has a unique point of view that I really appreciate. They just replayed one of the most affecting episodes I have heard called, "Growing Up Immigrant." One of the editors spoke about being the child of refugees. Her parents came from China, but were originally refugees from Vietnam. It was interesting to think about what is lost in a parent-child relationship when they do not share a dominant language.

She talked about a saying she learned from her parents; "eat bitter."

It's about the fact that all of us must "eat bitter" or suck it up and get through the difficult times in our lives in order to enjoy the outcomes. Some people have to eat more bitter than others. Sometimes we aren't aware of the bitter others are eating because they keep it as a private matter and put on a veneer of sugary sweetness in life.

This phrase really struck me. I don't think that proverb can exist in the same plane as the current American Dream with its prosperity theology. Popular culture does not value the sacrifices and grief it sometimes (often?) takes to succeed. Prosperity isn't always the outcome of hard work, nor is it always the goal, but consuming much of the media in the ether makes it seem possible. Probable even?

But it isn't. In the real world, you work hard just to exist. Sometimes it takes everything I have to just put one foot in front of the other, unable to even focus on the destination. For many people life is about a constant struggle to move forward, about eating bitter without a certainty that there will ever be anything else for you to eat.

That sounds so depressing, but it is actually reassuring to me. I have eaten a lot of bitter in my life, but that is life. And that is okay.

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