This is what I learned by dealing with myself in 2017
Growing up as an asian second-generation immigrant, life comes with a lot of advices with people around you. First of all, expectations from your parents. They have sacrificed a lot to bring you to the desired country of their choice. At least you need to do better than they did, otherwise it would be all for nothing, wouldn’t it?
In return, I am used to making sacrifices. Also, growing up in a Western country, you will be often reminded that before you were even born, you start out with -500 in priviledge points. Speak the language, but also keep up with your other language (which only will suddenly become an upgrade once you entered adulthood), be pretty! And also keep up with the beauty standards of your own etnicity. And so on. This mess was mostly prevelant during my teenage years. I kept up with the sacrifaces, and the hard work and my overall depressive murkiness about life, because I believed I was striving for something better. Until I got stuck, and felt like I could not move forward anymore because I had to make up my own standards and decisions. Whoops.
Years later, as I am older and wiser now (ha), this is what I have learned:
(1) My parents did not make sacrifices. They made a choice. My dad made a choice to move to the west because he was forced to. He needed to leave Vietnam. My mum made a choice based upon anxiety: She suddenly felt the pressure to marry and feared that it wouldn’t be possible. Suddenly this dude (my dad) popped up and ticked all ofher parents’ boxes. Not her internal ones. She married my dad within 5 months. Of knowing him. It was never love at first sight. Or at all, for that matter. She also wanted to move abroad, but that was probably because she was partly chasing a fantasy. An idea, the romance of going abroad. But she never did it on her own, because she probably did not believe that she could by herself. So stop thinking that you have to make sacrifices in return. Chanting “sacrifice” and be all gloomy and dramatic is so medieval anyways, and we got over that as society a long time ago. Pretty sure anyone would prefer if you do something out of choice (aka because you want to) and not because of the need to sacrifice.
(2) Once you reached your goals that were more or less in line with the approval of others (your parents), you need to learn how to tick your own internal boxes. Here are the signs for when that happens: The sudden fall of emptiness that slaps you aggressively in your pretty little face, accompanied with the realization that your depressive murkiness about life is part of yourself and you have to live with that. Yes, you need to live with yourself and all your depressing glory. So what gives you a rush?
(3) Be ready to turn yourself inside out. When your heart gets broken, when you miss your first flight (hello my worst nightmare, what are you doing here? Becoming true? Oh), when you see yourself in the mirror after your first one night stand (and realize that it was less cool than you projected it to be), when you need to face the lady behind the counter of the drugstore when you get your first morning-after-pill (and asking yourself where the hell you left the functioning part of your brain). And you will moan, cringe, cry, think, try to prevent it, break your brains, but the takeaway is: you just got to know yourself better and don’t beat yourself up for it. See it as growing pain. It’s painful, but useful.
(4) Be ready not to care anymore. NOT in a depressive I-don’t-feel-anything-please-let-me-be-hit-by-a-bus kind of way (those pop up too, but hopefully reading this out loud makes you laugh and realize these thoughts will fade too, like this joke). In your most depressing, cringeworthy, lonely moments where your existence felt so tiny that you just feel yourself shrinking just by feeling all of those emotions, realize that everything you want is already within you. You’re not lonely, you have the best company you can wish for: you (yes I know how this sounds, get over it). You’re not a depressing person, because you will always find a way out. Yes, maybe with the help of others, but it is you who decides when and how you pick yourself up. So stop hesitating because of others when it comes to your needs, health and desires. Because when shit goes bad, at least you know it’s your shit and you will intuitively know what to do, instead of being lost and clueless because you cared to much about what others said or wanted you to do.
While I am still in the process of learning how to put the things I learned into practice (because damnit, who would I be if I did not at least try to be the things I believe in my very own core?), I want you to know that these things are easier typed than done. Guilt, fear, anxiety, doubts and generally bad days doesn’t make it easy. But at the end of the day, week, month, year, I will know who I am and what I want. And that will make it easier to cancel out my unnecessary bad shit.