“The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” – C.C. Scott
Childhood shaped me. Of all the memories I’ve accumulated over thirty years, my childhood chapter is the most vivid one. I had a lovely childhood. My parents provided sufficiently. I had one-of-a kind relationship with my siblings. We had fun growing up, our imagination was larger than life despite little resources. Perhaps lack of resources is one of the keys to out-of-the box.
Gender plays a part in Asian family during the 80s or even before. In fact, I could tell just from how my mother juggled her profession and domestic burden. If you’re a female, domestic jobs and all sort of caretaker figure are expected out of you. If you’re not trained to do laundry, something is seriously wrong with you. Sequence plays a part too. If you’re the eldest or the youngest child, extra attention will be given. Simply because if you’re the first child, it marks a big milestone for first-time parents. If you’re the youngest, you’ll always be mom’s favourite, easily forgiven. Being the only daughter or sister in the family, many would have thought it’s a privilege. I guess the equation of being a female and middle child contrasted this.
My uncle witnessed how quiet and independent I was when I was a child. He couldn’t figure out how much was going through in my head. Perhaps I was observing and synthesizing more than speaking my thoughts out loud.
Growing up, I constantly question how unfair life is.
Among all the skill sets that women presumed to dominate back then, I detested most of the chores. Cooking, sewing, washing, you name it. Seriously, I do not know how to operate a sewing machine until today. These were must-have or must-do skills in prep to being a qualified wife. Seeing how my grandmother favoured my siblings over me with bigger share of warmth allocated, I didn’t realised how much it affected me until in my 20s. The thing is, teenage years are all about exploring life. It is not as straightforward to differentiate what’s fair and what’s not until later years when one is mature enough.
I have seen how desperate Chinese families crave to having boys over girls, even if conception demands abundance of effort. I am not sure how this came about. Perhaps it all began in China, although my grandfather migrated out of that narrow-minded soil long time ago. There was once when it became a debate if I deserved higher education considering girls were supposed to embrace domestic life and get married as soon as they grow up. Girls were considered ‘wasted investment‘ just because they will be ‘given away‘ with marriage eventually. Moreover, female’s legacy value was perceived to be far less than men. Despite not being the smartest among my siblings and was never pushed into scoring excellence at school, I fought for a chance to study abroad. I mean, why would one confines to a precedent that carries no basis?
Being a woman is not a choice. I am who I am.
I cannot change the world, but certainly I can make a difference.
Repetitively taken for granted, gradually I was drawn into trying so hard to prove my worth. Because I was so sick of being side-lined, and only become a subject of matter when there was no taker. Because achieving the highest point of my life meant only mediocre to many. Because others were given shortcuts to excel faster. Because it consumed so much of my energy with so little appreciation. Because there was lack of opportunity for glory. Because it was a pity that I’m a woman that I wanted more.
I am not as bright as my peers or colleagues. If one can easily understand a passage in split seconds, I’ll probably take an hour. It doesn’t matter if I have to start from ground level and take longer time in comprehending information, I’ll adapt regardless of frequency. Even if others attempt to outsmart and belittle my ambition, boldly I’ll laugh alongside and move on from there. Laughing has been my friendly shield in bouncing off demotivating and critical remarks. For years, I’ve endured the fear of not knowing enough, embarrassment from mistakes made and confronted with some of the toughest superiors ever. I’ve taken chances in trying new adventures and picked up from where I failed. Emotion has been the last on my check list. Despite how scary and nervous a circumstance is, I’ll hide these emotions from crippling my focus and deal with them later. Often, I break down behind closed door and over time, I got used to it.
The tougher one gets, the more challenges one will face.
It is also one hell of a lonely road.
The hot and cool experiences couldn’t get any better. Gradually, they trained my resilience. There is no specific time frame that I could gauge my resilience level. It just came alongside experiences. Before, I used to share my little successes with people close to me. These little successes were like mini celebrations, made me proud and meant a lot to me. All because I kept trying to please others with hope that they would be equally proud of me. Most of all, I was hungry for others’ affirmation. It took me a decade to understand how pointless these affirmations are. I realised, instead of being a slave to others’ expectations, all along the only affirmation I need is from myself. Besides, how can I expect anyone to possibly understand my world? Knowing my worth, living up to self-made expectations and goals are certainly more fulfilling than sitting on a fence waiting to be appreciated.
I was running around in circles for a decade, like a rat race that has no way out. Living on others’ expectations took so much victory joy from me. Not easily complacent, I should at least rewarded myself. Well, nothing is ever too late.
Nevertheless, experiences are unique to every individual. I may not have much to begin with, but my experiences are rich in many ways. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Sincerely, I thank my childhood life for creatively shaping the way I am today.
If you are expecting fairness in life, start by being fair to yourself.
Indeed, the human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.