In the middle of the session, I began to recall my past. I am not sure if it was the positive vibes generated from my yoga session, but I wanted to give myself a much needed pat on my shoulder for growing up well and getting to where I am now in a less-desired environment.
During my first two weeks after birth, my mum used to tell me she ignored me completely because I was a girl. In Asian countries and especially with an old-fashioned mother like mine, boys are better than girls mind-set is (and still is) ingrained in her mind.
When I reached primary school (or elementary school for western readers), I faced school bully and was ostracised by everyone. I had school lunches on my own, and went home alone. I had no friends simply because people were afraid of getting on the wrong side of the fence with the school bully.
My sister was crap to me. I remembered my English was very poor, and once my sister destroyed my mathematics exercise books. I went to her class and she lied that she did not, and was ashamed to acknowledge me as her sister because my spoken English was bad (well, now I am replying on English as a livelihood. How ironic is that?)
The only time my mother took time to focus on me was when I failed every single subject in my third year of primary school. I had tuition but I managed to buck up after the tutor insinuated that I was stupid. I realized that I had to rely on myself and boy, did I study hard when I was only 10 years old.
When I reached Primary Six, the final year before graduating from Primary School, I was appointed as a Prefect (you are basically a school monitor). It felt great to have the experience of being a School Prefect even though for a year.
During secondary school, my sister scalded my thighs (it was an accident frankly speaking, but my mother did not reprimand her). Thank goodness I was young so recovery was fast and easy without a very visible scar on it. I decided to seize the opportunities to enjoy more sporty and group-based extra-curricular activities because I knew I had no money to access these activities on my own, and I wanted to feel a sense of belonging to a group.
I didn’t have a group that stuck with me through these activities but I had no regrets participating in it. I continued to survive and relied on my own to pull through bad grades and eventually graduated from Secondary School (or High School) with good enough grades to get into one of the top 5 junior colleges.
My sister, on the other hand, had bad grades but she always had a boyfriend by her side to help her study. My old-fashioned mother always think that is something to be proud of (especially she is married at 26, a decent marriageable age) because she has a guy to rely on. For my western readers, yes this might sound ridiculous to you, but it is goddamn true. In my mother’s strange distorted world, she thinks having a man is the most important in the world. Despite you managed to get everything by yourself.
Junior college was tough with a psychopathic Principal that constantly tracks everyone’s results for every single test. It was a pressure cooker environment. None of my family members knew the pressure I was going through. However, I managed to get into one of the hardest faculty in university.
I graduated within four years whereas my sister delayed by another school term. To me, every single school term means extra money so I decided to go ahead with it although I was contemplating to switch to law.
I started working illegally during school holidays at the age of 15 but my mother think she was so great in supporting me in EVERYTHING. The reality is nope, she didn’t. I had only 2 uniforms throughout Primary, Secondary and Junior College to alternate. My shoes were worn till they couldn’t anymore hence my fourth toes are both deformed slightly (they were bent to accommodate into the tight white shoes).
I worked during every single holiday after I graduated from Junior College to earn money and keep it for my expenses because my sister was constantly hounding me with that mindset. However, she didn’t have to. Ever since Primary One, I have been saving 50%, or more, of my pocket money.
I bought my first computer set for myself, whereas my sister had hers bought by my mother. I paid for my own driving course, enrolled into finance and Japanese courses on my own. I simply paid for everything except my university tuition fees. Yes, it cost $22,000 in total, which was a lot. But my sister and my university tuition fees were actually paid by a lottery that my father struck. An old aunt of his came into his dream and gave him those precious numbers that really saved my sister and I from tuition debt, and my parents didn’t have to sacrifice their retirement fees (it is something similar to 401K for USA, a pension account managed by the government).
When I sprained my ankle in my 30s, and no one bothered to help me buy food, I was left almost famished at home if not for my friends who came to visit me. However, I do gain real insights from the deepest darkest moments during that day and really woke up to the fact that I should emotionally cut away from my family. I should also be tougher, less kind and speak my mind.
Therefore, I am proud to say that although I didn’t have an excellent career as a high-flyer, nor did I get married by age 30 with children, I:
- Did not do drugs, sell my body nor get into gangs
- Scored well during my academic years and got into decent schools
- Actually rely on English and my resourcefulness (which I trained hard during my schooling years) to be polished at interviews, presentations and kept up with the world affairs to make myself more knowledgeable.
- Didn’t take more money from my parents which they worked hard for. Besides the cheaper school fees (primary to junior college) which really cost less than $500 a year, the university tuition fees were really due to the old aunt that I never knew but extremely grateful for till today
- Managed to gain skills like ability to find temporary roles, or contractual roles in between jobs for my daily expenses
- Learnt to appreciate boring but very practical skills like my finance course which I used to invest and also get into small hacks like stocks, fixed deposit, bonds, and also which savings account to put into
- Was saved by my religion, which in my darkest moments, showed me the light and truth
- Learnt the hard but very useful lesson that I should rely on myself for self-affirmation and not rely on some shit guy (like my mother always think)
- Learnt that only money, and not a prince, that will save me. Yes, it was my own money that I managed to buy my own house (my own castle) and funded my own renovation without any loan
My attitude towards my parents
Towards my parents, my motto is: They gave me the basics to grow up to be an independent person, so similarly I will give them the basics when they grow old and sick. Attending to hospital needs, insurance etc, seeking help within the medical system, knowing where to seek medical help and getting extra pair of hands to help out are some things that I will do, similar to what I did for my late father. Likewise, I will not abandon my mum completely when I moved out.
However, I will cut off emotionally to protect myself. They had never really spent time to understand my feeling. Hence, neither do I want to continue to invest my emotions on them. Honestly speaking, this realization 5 years back really saved my sanity.
Last thoughts - Positive Ones!
Although I did not become a high flyer (but I wish to carve something on my own business after I move out and have a more conducive environment to do so, while holding out a less stressful but still decently paid job moving forward), I did not go astray and still managed to earn and lead a decent respectable life. My belief that money and knowledge are my protection as I get older also helped to set my life straight and righteous (at least I don’t indulge in vices).
Slowly but surely, I can see that the happiness that I felt in my sunflower dream during my childhood - after leaving behind my family members - will soon come true in reality.
Therefore I would like to pat myself on my shoulder and say to myself today: Good Job!! You have come a very very long way on your own!!