I fell in love with games and gambling at around 10-years-old.
Card games: War, UNO, Poker, and Spit. Board games: Monopoly and Outburst. But, the game I loved the absolute most was Mahjong. My grandfather and cousin taught me how to play the game. We used to gamble with pennies and food. The clickety black of the shiny ivory blocks as they smacked against each other and as we stacked them and then flipped each block out to play our hand was adrenaline-rushing and thrilling. Bamboos. Circles. Chinese numbers. Take up a block. Give up a block. Someone could take or ignore your block. Poker faces. Match. Strategize. Think hard. Maybe a little luck if you are lucky enough. Until you got your way. Until you win. Win big.
In my immediate family, I was the only one who like to gamble and play games. Outside of my immediate family and among all my relatives, just about everyone loved and did play a good and rousing game of mahjong except for my aunt. I thought this was odd, though, because my aunt was somehow always gambling or bargaining in life. I still remember us snaking our way in the overly crowded and steamy streets of Hong Kong with my aunt and another aunt (in Chinese, or maybe it is in my family, we call just about everyone aunt) haggling with the store owners and store keepers to try to talk down prices of items that they really wanted to buy. I’d watch my aunts completely mesmerized and confused with this one question blinking brightly in my mind over and over: “If they really want it, then why don’t they just buy it at the set price instead of fight it?”
As I got older and particularly on a trip to China, I turned red in the face with embarrassment when my aunt was snapping at this storeowner to talk down a price on this pink hat that I really wanted. She turned her back. grabbed my arm to drag me away, and said in a clipped and no-nonsense voice: “Now, we walk away.”
I hissed, “But why are we walking away when I really want it? Why is it always a fight and bargaining? Why can’t you just accept it as the price it is?”
“Wanting it and meant to have it are two separate things. You have to be willing to walk away and lose. Wait and watch. Listen and learn,” she whispered back.
Moments later, the store owner threw up his arms and spat off that he agreed to the price that my aunt agreed to. I got my pretty pink hat that people shower me with praise that I look that like a happy strawberry shortcake when I wear it. I could not believe that my aunt had talked down the price to that low. I could not believe that she had gotten her way. I could not believe how much I loved this pink swirled hat from China. I was curious and utterly fascinated. I was speechless.
I opened my mouth to ask my aunt how she did that. Her painted red lips curled upwards in a smile. Her eyes sparkled. She nodded. I paused. Without her saying anything, I think I understood: “Wait and Watch. Listen and Learn.” I pondered about my family upbringing with mahjong as a staple game that we played out of family fun and my aunts who did not always accept what was told to them and they, instead, told others how it is to be. In each of these ‘games,’ you had to learn to lose AND be completely fearless to lose. You had to be unafraid to walk away and leave if the terms that you put out there were unaccepted for what you deemed as worthwhile. You had to put yourself out there and make your terms known and clear without budging, but bend if needed. Think carefully and strategize without over analyzing. Trust in yourself and in the wise risks and stakes and take ownership for the winning and the losing. Walk away when it was at the best peak and when timing was just right to be satisfied, but not and never greedy, with the winnings rather than the losings. The name of the game: To win AND win big, you had to be willing to lose AND lose big. Maybe the key to winning is the acceptance of losing that brings out our humility, humbleness, and abilities to keep on trying and going without losing our tenacity.
Losing holds just as importance than winning. When have you lost? Are you a risktaker? Do you bargain and try to negotiate to get your way? Is what you deemed as losing REALLY a loss?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,