By Ronnie Triminio
I never realized how much work my parents did for me until I had to do it alone.
I thought that I understood the hardships my parents had endured by moving to a different country for a better life. However, it took me moving to — then surviving a pandemic — alone in Japan, eating only chicken nuggets, to truly understand what they did.
In America, my parents did their best to instill the value of hard work in me. I worked a part-time job while going to school. I paid bills, did chores, and took care of my little brother. The only thing I didn’t do was cook (which, as you can see from the name of this article, was something that I came to regret). I didn’t like the process of making the food and then cleaning everything up every single time I wanted French fries.
Living at home helped me pay for college and I didn’t have to worry about my poor cooking ability, but I desperately wanted to become more independent and learn to take care of myself. So I decided to follow in my parents’ footsteps and move to a different country. I came to Japan with the goal of experiencing living alone for the first time and learning to be independent.
At first I was fine, but over time my life became extremely disorganized. Learning how to be an adult in my third language didn’t help either. Everyday, there was a seemingly never-ending amount of errands and chores, not to mention my work and studies that all combined to create a Mt. Everest level of stress.
Worst of all, my eating habits worsened. Being busy and unfamiliar with Japanese stores, plus having no real knowledge of cooking, does not equal a well-balanced diet. I relied on fast food and snacks to get me through the day. I gained 30 pounds, and always felt extremely exhausted because of it.
I wasn’t succeeding at being independent to say the least.
I can try to blame the pandemic, or not knowing the language, but I know that at the end of the day, I was underprepared to live on my own.
To think my parents did all this, supported their family back home, and took care of their children is even more incredible to me. I couldn’t even cook pasta for myself.
I reached out to my parents, my friends, and even some close co-workers about how to manage the work-life balance.
There was a lot of teasing, and my friends’ advice wasn’t always easy to swallow, but thanks to them, I finally learned how to cook curry. With patience that could give god a run for their money, my friend gave me a box of roux and instructed me on how to make it.
I tried to follow along and copy their movements exactly. I cut potatoes, carrots, onions, beef and set them to simmer on low heat. While that was cooking, I set the rice to cook and started washing plates.
By the time the food was ready, there was little left to do but to eat.
In trying it, I realized that I made a few mistakes. The rice was slightly burned, the potatoes weren’t fully cooked and the beef texture was a bit off, but even still, I enjoyed my cooking. I felt like this was a good step toward independence.
After that, I watched several YouTube videos about cooking and learned how to make soups, pasta, chicken, and even dumplings! I bought an oven and even started learning how to bake!
I can’t truly say I like the process of cooking, but every time I sit down and eat a meal made by myself, I feel like I’m slowly but surely understanding what it means to become independent… and that I should take cooking classes one day.