"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

love & duty

Now Playing: Sprawl II by Arcade Fire (they heard me singing and they told me to stop, quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock) 

I feel like there is a misunderstanding of Asian kids, particularly Asian Australian kids, who rely heavily on their parents.

My parents became what the government considers a high income household through hard work; we didn't always have it so good. I remember pinching pennies as a child. But my parents worked hard so that my sister and I would have the good life, the good life that is promised to all immigrants and their children. My mother especially seemed to live vicariously through us, in buying for us everything she never had.

My parents pay for pretty much everything I have; but I have more autonomy than people think. I think it's easy for people to assume that I'm just going through the motions for my overbearing parents, which is certainly what my schools thought when my mother wated me to be pushed on, faster than the rest - all they could see was the stereotypical greedy tiger mother, because old white men struggle very hard to see the multitudes in a woman who looks so different to them, or her daughter. I think now that I'm in a field that my parents never would have chosen for me, it's a little easier to take me seriously; but my choices go back further than that. My parents chose my school, but I got in with no help. I chose my university, and my majors, and then I chose which major to ditch and which other one to take, I told my mother that I felt the ice cracking beneath my feet and I stayed up all hours of the night desperately trying to find a way out. Coming to ANU was all my own idea, and I made it happen. My parents have never attempted to control my life, only to facilitate it.

But there is a sense of duty that comes with being so well provided for. I definitely saw some rich kids fail semester after daddy-funded semester, but I never wanted to let my parents down, especially seeing as I was not making what anyone would consider prudent investments. I'm a terrible student - I'm lazy, I like eating and sleeping too much, I get distracted, anxiety makes me procrastinate for hours on end, and I struggle endlessly with self doubt. Any nerd will tell you of the pervasive anxiety surrounding marks and grades - I cried whenever I didn't get a grade I wanted, in the same way that the athletic kids used to cry if they didn't get blue ribbons. So I always pull through, through temptation, through anxiety. The only thing worse than having a kid who is a shit investment is having a kid who is shit at the shit investment. When you're a gifted kid, you feel this uncontrollable need to live up to expectations. When you're a gifted Asian kid, or a bit of a loner, a bit of a weirdo, the need to prove everyone wrong is all-consuming. People think I am easily distracted, by pretty things and by pretty people, but I have never wanted anything or anyone more than my own success.

When you're all grown up, when you have children of your own, love and duty are all tied together - my parents push through with their difficult jobs to provide for their already-grown children, so that we have some hope of establishing a career in an increasingly depressing job market; we live in a virtuous cycle of duty and obligation to each other. But when you're young, like me...sometimes love is the death of duty.

Home was full of temptations that were not in the least bit tempting in the abstract; I used to think about love and happily ever after in the same abstract way that kids talk about the moon. I don't think I met the right person, but I met the right idea; the pervasive idea that I could give up my career ambitions for other, simpler, ambitions. The scariest thing, for me, is that I came dangerously close to throwing away the security of my parents' steadfast support...for what? The hardest lesson to learn is that you cannot trust anyone.

And yet I still can't shake off the feeling that I have given up something big. I probably haven't. But I'm young, and I don't know any better. I don't know of anything that could be better.

My friend told me that part of adulthood is wondering; because sometimes you do have to choose between two good things, sometimes when you choose one path you don't know if it's the right one. You spend your life wondering what your life would be like, if you had chosen differently; and there's no way of telling which way was right.

It's a great folly to be young and try to love; because we are still at that time of life where love is the death of duty. We are so...self serving, and I don't know if I can judge other people for hurting me in their selfishness; because I am equally so. My affection is not as pure and innocent and kind as the people who wax poetic about it think; I have my own agendas. I only really cry when I've been outwitted at my own game. No-one serves without ultimately serving themselves; and why the hell not?  Above and beyond duty to others, I have a duty to myself. The only thing that has kept me going these past years has been this idea that I can make something for myself, that I can let go of a lot of the bitterness and resentment that existed alongside the temptation and happiness of home. The people of my past may have been wonderful, but I can't trust them farther than I can throw them. We rely so much on other people, to give us jobs, to educate our children, to love and marry and stay with us...but first you have to rely on yourself, to know that you can still hold your ground even when things fall apart. Things have fallen apart in the smallest way, and I fell apart with it. I am learning, slowly, to be content with my choices, to be sure of myself, and to pull it together when you draw the short straw. Because the only constant in your life is yourself, you know? Nobody else has ever shown me otherwise.

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