My former primary school used to be just one block down the road from where we lived. It took less than five minutes to walk there, but my mum would drive me those two minutes for some reason. Rarely would she walk me there. Classes were usually from 07:30 until 12:30 or 13:30, with lots of recess in between classes. Recess was hell for me, especially during the colder days. The school wouldn’t let the kids stay inside. They held the rule of fresh air in high regard. I wasn’t really into that when I was young, especially with no playmates.
The only time I liked the outdoors was playing in our huge backyard with my sister and cousins. I didn’t feel good enough to play with beautiful white kids.
My whole life is about delayed awareness. Most of the time, you can’t expect me to react fast enough unless my instincts are really sharp. If fears and insecurities are evident, you can expect this delay to stay for years. Most of the time, my instincts are not as sharp and alert as they should be. I’d been trying to work out why.
Was it indifference or the inability to live a human life? I would follow every lead; it didn’t matter whose lead it was—parents, teachers, doctors, etc. I don’t remember ever feeling anything except for a mental paralysis.
One afternoon, we had a cancelled class, and they sent all the kids home early, but my mum had no idea about it. No one had notified my parents, and I didn’t have a cell phone back in 1991. So I went to the pickup area, as usual, to wait for my mum, expecting her to know everything and be there any minute. I was watching kids walk home by themselves or with their parents. About twenty minutes later, I was still convinced that mum would be there any second. It just didn’t occur to me that the five-minute walk home was an option. About half an hour had passed, and one of my teachers walked up to me, asking why I wasn’t going home. I never spoke a word at primary school, so I didn’t say anything. I don’t remember whether she’d walked me home or called my parents, but what I do remember is she told my mother off. I didn’t feel stupid and guilty until years after. Moreover, I felt angry that my parents were so overly protective of me that I didn’t know how to do things independently, not to mention walk home by myself.
My cousin was once abandoned in the shop by my aunt. John Lydon got kicked out of his home when he was fifteen or sixteen.
For the next two or three years of primary school, my mum spent two minutes each morning driving me to school. As the years went by, I would know how to walk home by myself. Sometimes I even cycled. One afternoon I felt rewarded for walking home, as I’d found a one hundred Deutsche Mark-note on the sidewalk.
I would often cry myself to sleep whenever my dad gave me private maths lessons. He didn’t understand why I, as a Chinese, sucked at maths. He was telling me how hard he used to study when he was younger. He always wanted to be as good (if not better) than his buddy in school, who was highly intelligent. But my dad had to do it the hard way, which was study all night.
One evening I was very unresponsive, and even though I knew the answer to his question, I couldn’t utter it because he was already yelling. That was the hardest smack in the face I’d ever got. I remember falling off the chair and hearing him slam the door shut behind his back. I won’t forget that. I think I deserved it. Smack me in the face to make sure that I am alive is the best way to go.
Emotionally unresponsive and paralysed is how I’ve always felt when being confronted with something as a kid. I froze. Some people are not born to be able to express themselves well. That’s why I used to empathise with androids and robots, or at least I wished I were one of them. I wish I could be programmed to respond accordingly.
Anyway, working hard hasn’t been any different for my dad’s kids, except that I wasn’t studying all that hard during Primary School. If anything, I was a hopeless dreamer who made up cheesy love stories in her head that wasn’t coming true.
My dad was embarrassed to attend parents’ evenings. It didn’t take long for guilt to dig holes into my conscience. I already wasn’t a son, but I was a daughter that was shit and awkward in school. Why blame him for how he felt?
Despite everything, I would say my mum and dad are loving parents. By the time I was in secondary school, I’d made sure to rely on myself more. I cycled to school more often. My secondary school was about 2.5 KM away. However, my mum would always be worried and offer to drive me. At that time, I wanted to be more like my classmates, who would cycle to school every day, even in the rain. But building up my self-reliance came a lot later.
Both childhood and youth entailed many trips of self-pity and guilt, which had drawn me away from building more self-confidence and self-belief. All I knew was to dwell in worthlessness and write about it, which is why 60% of my 40-46 journals consist of self-pity and self-destructive thoughts. Thoughts about not being good enough – for anyone and in whatever I do. It was not a healthy way of thinking and living.
A little miracle happened when I maneuvered these feelings into creative anger for a while. That was my slow route to building more self-confidence. I figured that I might have been too young to give up.
I hate writing sometimes. But it has been the only way to dig down and explore my feelings. A paragraph might still take me three hours to write, but I know the feelings are there. And if I don’t search for them and deal with them, they will kill me, and I will stop caring.
I always thought that I disappointed my dad the most and hurt him the most by being who I was, but I don’t think I ever cared about making him proud. He’s still a caring dad, and I don’t resent him for what he might think or how he might feel. And I don’t know if I will ever ask him.
In my book, I wrote about a father and daughter relationship that I never had and a mother and daughter relationship that I’d never want to have. But the whole Asian family mentality is different from the Western one.
Perhaps there is a reason why I was born the way I am. I was born during Saturn retrograde and on a Saturday on top of it. People under that influence have some serious weight on their shoulders. Their lives are all about patience and working hard. You work hard work for balance, security and happiness. The planets are our gods.
All planets are currently in Capricorn, and Saturn entered the Rx zone over a week ago but won’t be in Rx until mid-April. Apparently, this is the time you build long-term goals. My mum would say, “It’s about time!”
I always thought that my parents are indifferent about my choices, but maybe not. My family has always been my number one, and there is no day where I don’t think about how to return all the love and the most crucial support that I’ve received. It’s a burden when you can’t give something back.
I still believe that I’m not looking after them well because I can barely look after myself. I know my dad compares me to my cousins and such, and it’s ok. Yes, I’m not making as much money, and I’m nowhere near successful. And my mum wants me to have stability in life, such as settling down with a home and hopefully take care of them one day, which I will.
I don’t remember hurting anyone more than I have hurt my own mother. That was simply by saying that she wasn’t the best mother in the world. Who would ever say something like that to their mum? I did. And even then, she loves me unconditionally.
Can you see why I don’t want to become a mother? I always thought my whole life was a guilt trip. I don’t always learn from my mistakes, and I would blame myself because, according to the truth, it is my fault. I’m letting all these things happen. How hard is it to stop it?
I think I saw my parents the proudest on my graduation day, although I don’t think they exactly knew what I studied. It’s the whole idea of wearing a gown with fellow students, I suppose. My goal is not really to make them proud but to look after them. And I will.