Context: AL is one of my best friends that I grew up with, and I always turn to him for life advice or just to have a person to listen to when I feel emotional distress. I was telling him how I felt so lost during quarantine and a little depressed because of the way I had to juggle my workload and living almost in isolation, and he gave listened and told me a Chinese proverb that related to my situation to help me out.
Roman Phonetic: “Yong yige kaizi chifan de ren shi e de”
- Transliterated Proverb:
- yong: use
- yige: one
- kaizi: chopstick
- chifan: eat food
- de: *a possessive participle*, roughly means “those who” in this case
- shi: Are
- e: hungry
Full Translation: This literally means “those who use one chopstick to eat food are hungry”. However, the looser more accurate translation would be to make sure you have two chopsticks before eating your food or to find balance in your life.
Explanation: Andy heard this proverb from his Chinese school, and he told it to me when I told him I felt like I was being overwhelmed. My sleep schedule and eating habits were not the best because I was juggling all the work I had to do, so he told me this proverb to explain that I should start with fixing my sleep, which draws an analogical parallel to the chopsticks in the proverb. The way he explains it, “in order to eat a meal, you have to have two chopsticks first. The same goes for dealing with our lives every day. In order to deal with all the work you feel overwhelmed doing, you first have to take care of yourself. Don’t be nocturnal and sleep at least 8 hours if you can, and don’t just eat one meal a day. You have to start with fixing the small things, and then you can move on to the big ones. You’ll feel much better once you’ve created a routine, only then can you begin to find balance in your life”. Whenever I would open up to him about important things that were happening in my life, he would always refer to the proverb first to make sure that I was taking care of myself.
Thoughts: I’ve heard this proverb before from my parents, but we’ve always interpreted the underlying looser meaning to mean those who eat with one chopstick are hungry fools. I’ve always thought that the meaning was more of a “look before you leap” type of proverb, warning people to be prepared before they enter situations. To me, the way my parents told the proverb showed me that they personally value teaching me to always be prepared before things happen. The way my friend told it to me showed me that he values having a routine and starting each day prepared by starting with the small things. Personally, I think that I value both sides of the proverbs, and have followed my friend’s advice.