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Mr. FAF looked down at the floor.
His eyes were reflecting an undeniable sense of despondency.
I can always tell when he’s unhappy or stressed about something.
And I always ask him what’s on his mind, otherwise he won’t tell me until much later, if at all.
He told me that his childhood friend, who’s currently in China, was recently diagnosed with cancer.
She’s only 36 and has two kids (11 and 7).
I asked him what stage her cancer was.
Mr. FAF said it’s a rare kind of cancer, and she has a small chance of surviving.
Based on what Mr. FAF told me, they grew up together. Her parents were neighbors. She was actual his first crush.
I wasn’t jealous one bit. I was saddened as well.
I met her when I was in China for our wedding.
She actually helped us a lot with the wedding preparation.
Mr. FAF was sad for days afters. He asked his friend’s parents if they needed money for her, and they said no.
He also looked up hospitals in the US that treat that kind of cancer, but her family didn’t (and possibly couldn’t afford to) send her here.
Related: When Money Matters In A Relationship
I started wondering what would happen to her parents, who no longer work and rely on her and her husband for financial support.
Her husband is a successful businessman. He runs a couple of restaurants together with other businesses in China. She stays at home to take care of the kids.
If she passes, will her husband continue to support her parents? What would happen to her kids who are still so young? If her husband remarries one day, will his new wife treat her children well?
Those questions occupied my thoughts for a long time. I don’t have any answers to those questions, and neither does Mr. FAF.
I know cancer exists, but I never thought it would happen to anyone I know. The realization that either Mr. FAF or I might die early one day made me worry.
If I were to die tomorrow, next month, or next year, what would I regret not doing?
Sometimes when I tell myself not to buy something to save money, thereby sticking to my frugality, I ask myself if it’s all worth it.
In other words, why sacrifice my present happiness for a day in the future when I’m not sure will ever exist?
Why not just buy the clothes that I like or eat all the delicious expensive delicacies at fancy restaurants now instead of suppressing my desires for a couple of bucks?
Related: When Frugality Goes Wrong
Those questions help me decide if not buying something won’t make me regret and be miserable in the future.
Then I realized that if I were to die tomorrow, it won’t be the lack of material things like clothes or food for myself that will make me regretful. It is actually the four things below that I wish I’d done more when I’m still alive.
1. Not spending more time with my extended family
I came to America at the age of 18 and have been living far away from my parents for more than 13 years. I visit home every two years or so.
For the first two weeks of me being home, everything is great. But after that, things tend to go back to normal where my grandparents and parents would nag at me about every little thing that I do, and I’d want to go back to the US to enjoy my independent life.
That said, I do feel that I’d like to spend more time with them and to take them places so that they can see the world.
My grandparents and parents are frugal, so traveling is not their priority. They want to save money for the family.
My grandparents are 86 now. Whenever I go back to Vietnam, they’d tell me that they are not sure if they will be able to see me the next time I go home. Everyone just feels sad and tries to change the subject.
I know I have my little family with my hubby and kids in the US. But I spend every day with them, so I wouldn’t feel as bad as I do about my family in Vietnam.
Related: What Growing Up Poor Has Taught Me
2. Not buying my extended family more presents
In order to survive in the US alone without any family, I tried to save every penny when I was single. I didn’t want my parents to have to support me with their hard-earned money. That was the biggest motivation for me to be frugal.
Now that I am married, I want to save money for our family, especially our kids. Maybe I am stingy, but fear always prevents me from buying a lot of nice gifts for my family.
I bought a laptop for my uncle and a camera for my aunt together with more expensive presents. But I’d want to buy them more.
Now that Mr. FAF and I have a full-time job, we’ve been trying to save up and pay off the mortgage, which is something my family always urges me to do.
Once we’re done with our mortgage next year, Mr. FAF and I plan to visit my family in Vietnam. I will then buy them the nice gifts I’ve wanted but thought I couldn’t afford before.
3. Not being a more patient wife to Mr. FAF
I’ve written about how my impatience impacts my marriage with Mr. FAF. Sometimes I find myself getting upset or yelling at him for the most frivolous reason possible.
Every time like that, I feel guilty and think about a better way to communicate the same message to him. It’s like a daily internal struggle for me to be a better wife.
For example, Mr. FAF once told me he’d come home at 7 PM so that his dad and I would wait for him. But it was 7:30 PM, and there was no sign of him.
I called him, and he said he’d come home at 7:50 because he went to buy kabob to drink with when he got home.
I got upset and hung up on him despite his apology. I felt guilty immediately after and went to the door to greet him when he came home.
Hubby greeted me with a smile and apologized again. He could have gotten upset at me for hanging up on him and given me a cold shoulder, which he didn’t. That made me feel even more guilty.
Related: Is It A Mistake To Get Married?
4. Not being a more gentle mom to my son
Our son is 3.5 years old now, and his seemingly endless tantrums really test my patience as a parent and a human being.
Mr. FAF and I have tried various ways to console him, from putting him in the bathroom to cry it out to praising him, but nothing seems to work to stop the screaming right away.
He will throw his tantrum anytime and anywhere in front of anyone he wants. Our son crying and screaming nonstop for 30 minutes is nothing new to us.
Sometimes I just can’t help but lose my patience and start yelling at him. I just feel like I’m at my wit’s end.
Every time like that I’d feel guilty right afterwards. I’d tell myself to be more gentle and patient with my son. And of course, it works for me until the next time Baby F1 sceams at the top of his lungs.
I’m still working on my patience with Baby F1 and potentially Baby F2 when she’s older. I know many parents have the same problem, but I always feel shy about asking them how they deal with it. I feel embarrassed to admit to them that I myself yell at my kid sometimes (or maybe a lot).
Related: Our 7 Expectations Of Our Son
After coming up with this list, I felt relieved that none of the items above requires a ton of money or fancy things like a BMW, a mansion, or a luxurious trip to Europe (although it’d be nice to have them when I’m still alive).
It means that I don’t have to work my tail off to make money and purchase those things to make my existence fulfilling.
While #1 and #2 might require a bit of money for me to travel and buy gifts for family, I can start working on #3 and #4 right now.
Of course, I want to make an impact on the world and do many other things as I mentioned in my pledge for the millionaire club.
However, if I have to narrow down my bucket list, what I want to do really focuses on my family. If I can’t make the people I love happy and help them have a better life, then my life won’t be as fulfilling as I want it to be.