Save Ten Percent of Yourself

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“If you keep crying so easily, your tears will be worthless.”

This is one of my mother’s most famous sayings, one that I can quote easily because of how much it hurt. Upon hearing this, I used to scream back in rage that I would never tell her anything anymore— after all, I only confided in her about my sadness because I trusted her, and seeing how she seemed to shrug off my tears as something she could get used to made everything hurt even more. She always laughs at how stubborn and naive I am (yigenjin, as she says), as if I don’t know how the real world works— but what’s wrong with being kind and trusting of others?

Over the years, we’ve bickered, fought, screamed, yelled, and cried at each other’s apparent inability to understand, but we’ve always been brought back together by the unconditional love and care we felt for each other. I cry at Crying in H Mart not only because I was moved by the beautiful storytelling and heartbreaking tale Zauner weaves, but also because I related on a personal level as I recounted my memories with my mother and feared that one day I must experience a parting unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. 

As a child, I resented bits and pieces of my mother, and in my teenage years, I fought with her constantly. But as the clock struck 12 and I turned eighteen, my mother handed me a hand-written letter that brings me to tears every time I read it: 

“I don’t know when we started to grow distant, and my blunt nature brought too much harm to you. Forgive me, for it is my first time being a mother, and I hope you’ll understand the way I feel worrying too much about my daughter. Please remember that I will always be that loving, supportive person for you.” 

Little did I know that the times I felt ridiculed by her words were her attempts of helping me grow stronger, and her laughter at my tears stemmed from unconditional love and concern for my happiness. She didn’t want me to cry, and she didn’t want me to give everyone my all and get hurt in the process, because you should always save ten percent of yourself from everyone else, because nobody loves you as much as Mom does.