By Jannelle So
“Kung hei fat choi! Gong cee fa tsai! Si nien kuwai le! Happy Lunar New Year!”
I have always regarded (Chinese) Lunar New Year as a chance to do-over, to reset the game. Being the perfectionist that I am, January would always be a trial period for me; a chance to find my bearings in the New Year; review my new year’s resolutions and figure out which ones I’ll keep and which ones I’ll reserve for the next year. If I had what I perceived to be “bad luck” in January, I would always comfort myself with the thought that itâ€™s not really a “NEW” year until after Chinese New Year. And yes, it applies to me, as I am a proud Filipino-Chinese; although nobody took the time to explain to me the meaning and significance of Chinese New Year. Growing up, all I knew was it was time for a full stomach – eating tikoy and sending a box to each of our neighbors in the village; and full pockets – receiving red envelopes from the elders in the family.
The origin of Lunar New Year is centuries old but the holiday itself gains popularity because of several myths and traditions attached to it. Ancient Chinese New Year is a reflection on how the people behaved and what they believed in the most. But whether itâ€™s the regular New Year or Lunar New Year, the symbolism is the same. Both holidays signify new beginning. And because we all make mistakes and we all experience lapses in judgments, we all crave a fresh start, a reset button. Since we think weâ€™ve learned from those previous experiences and bad decisions, we are more confident to forge ahead. And that is also why most turn to astrology and alignment of stars, fortune-telling and feng-shui during this time. We already know the past. But wouldn’t it be great to also know the future? That way we know what to expect?
I invited fourth generation feng-shui master Jenny T. Liu on “Kababayan LA” last week to talk about what this Year of the Golden Rabbit would bring. She said that in general, this would be a more calm and peaceful year wherein diplomacy will flourish – a stark contrast to the very aggressive year we had last year during the Year of the Tiger. In love, those born in the Year of Rat, Monkey, Sheep and Horse will find good fortune. If you want a full report, catch previous episodes of “Kababayan LA” at www.youtube.com/kababayanla18.
My point is: by concerning ourselves with these forecasts, we are essentially looking for what the future will bring so we can prepare for it. Sort of like a map. But when you really think about it, can anyone really tell what the future holds? And more importantly, do we really want to live our lives already knowing and preparing for the future? Does that help us at all?
A few years ago, I consulted a feng-shui expert for my personal astrology. I am one of those people who donâ€™t swear by it but think itâ€™s interesting to take note. And since this expert offered to give me my reading for free, I went one afternoon.
It started out really very positive, talking about my career, mostly. But what I wanted to hear the most was my future family life – marriage and kids. And when it came to that point, I was crushed. The expert basically told me that marriage was going to be the start of my end; and having kids will be “heaven’s punishment” for me. (That exact phrase was used.) I just about died! I was young then and was absolutely idealistic. Of course I wanted to one day have my own family and this person sitting in front of me babbling about my stars basically said I should start wanting some other things out of life because family wasnâ€™t in my destinyâ€™s itinerary. I wanted to just stand up and run, as fast as I could, as far as I could in my 4-inch heels!
I blocked everything else out so I don’t really remember the other stuff that was said. I only came to when I heard the expert ask me: “Do you really want to have a family?” As if I was lying when I said it the first time. You know, how some people say they want something but don’t really mean it? Iâ€™m not really like that.
“Of course!” I firmly replied. By this time, I was already regretting that I went. The reading was apparently not only free of charge; it also came with free unnecessary stress!
“Well, there’s a cure for your ‘bad luck,’ you know,” the feng-shui-master was now talking like he’s the master of my life, too. He then went to the side of the office and picked up a very nice painting. It was easy on the eyes because of the pretty colors used. But I couldn’t really tell what it was about; although I did recognize some shapes of fish, gold coins, a lush tree. He told me I needed to hang the said painting in the east or northwest part of my house.
I agreed, while making a mental note to get a compass. I am hopeless when it comes to directions. I knew there was no way I was figuring out on my own where the east and northwest sides of my house were. And then it occurred to me to ask, was he giving me the painting? Or was it something I had to buy? How naive was I?!
The picture was painted exclusively for someone else but I could go back in two weeks for my own. In short, it was made-to-order; and I could pay when I picked mine up. Why, thank you! But how much was it? $3,000. (Gulp! And it wasn’t even a legitimate work of art!) But for the love of my dreams to one day have my own family and raise my own kids, I actually almost paid for it! Luckily, I had purchased a few pairs of shoes a week before and I knew I didnâ€™t have the funds to get that painting that would “correct” my destiny.
The expert must’ve sensed my hesitation and so he quickly picked up a piece of paper with the same exact picture on the painting. He said it was a replica. (Duh, I could see that.) But the paper with the painting cost less – only $1,500. By then the rest of my earlier anxieties had just left the room, and shut the door behind it. I felt a wave of laughter escaping my insides, but in the interest of politeness, I crammed it in my throat.
I stayed on for a few more minutes, listened to him talk more about the alignment of my stars which by then already sounded like an elaborate sales talk. I left without purchasing the $3,000-painting nor the $1,500-replica.
I am still single. But I’d rather live my life, working on what I can in order to ensure a good future; rather than basing my decisions on an over-priced painting. Because in reality, if you take care of the present, the future always follows.
Jannelle So is the only Filipina immigrant seen daily on local television in Southern California. She is the Host/Producer of “Kababayan LA” – the first and only daily talk show for Filipino Americans and has negotiated sponsorships from companies interested in her target audience. She has more than 16 years of global content production and print and broadcast expertise covering a wide range of topics from Philippine politics to US politics, to sports, Hollywood, lifestyle, health, music. Jannelle holds a Certificate in Journalism from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Bachelorâ€™s Degree in Communication Arts which she attended as an honor scholar.