I grew up with one. In my 29th year of living in constant fear and dictatorship, without fore warning or premeditation, the frightened child inside of me finally broke loose. This child was paranoid and sick. This child lost the ability to carry on. She lost interest in self-care in all possible ways – she stopped eating and slept for a week straight. This child landed herself in the emergency psychiatric ward multiple times. This poor child… this was me four years ago. I was alone and so very desperate. In hide sight, there must have been an ever so tiny sliver of hope in her, that she somehow held on and survived.
It always was going to be a complete shit show before the calm.
My mother makes Amy Chua (author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) seem like an angel. After nearly 30 years of mental and physical abuse, I finally realized that I did not have to take shit from anybody – even if this somebody turns out to be my very own, biological mother. Judge me if you must, it doesn’t bother me much.
Not so many years ago, a childhood friend shared with me that she decided to cut all ties with her tiger mom, I remember precisely my response was, “Huh… You can do that?” That was my reaction, even though I knew damned well that her mother had chased after her with a kitchen knife. Yup, that’s how fucked up I was. I was trained to be so obedient, that no matter how horribly I was ridiculed, hurt physically, suffered psychologically to the point of physical pain, I did not dare defy my mother. Sure, I had stayed out later than my curfew*, had crushes on boys in my adolescence (I was to feel towards boys the way I would feel towards a wall, anything other than made me a slut), did not become a medical doctor (mind you, I was reminded of my incompetence and laziness on a daily basis anyway); but I did not steal, did not do drugs or sell drugs or engage in any illegal activities, I didn’t even drink; I didn’t hurt or bully anyone. I felt I was a good kid. I just could not make my mother happy. She was always so hurt and disappointed and embarrassed and *insert negative adjectives* of me. Like I was the disgrace of the universe.
I was a good kid. Some would even say that I was pretty darn close to being the ideal Chinese kid – made the honor roll (not that not making it was really an option. I probably would have been hit and yelled at to the point that I would have hurt myself by slamming my head against the wall, and I used to do that. I was only asked to stop because mother was afraid I was causing such a ruckus that our next door neighbors would hear us, and then God forbid, would call the police to file a complaint. I always secretly wished that they would’ve heard me. Alas, my screaming and yelling fell on deaf ears in oh-so-many ways.) I was polite, and genuinely for the most part; I was an altar server at church; I dared not dream of pursuing a “worthless” career of music or art…. I only did what I was told and what was expected of me, to the best of my ability.
In the past few years, I have finally learnt that I need not care what others think of me. The only person whose opinion and well-being that ever did matter, that will ever matter, is my own. But I digress…..
Ms. Vanessa Mae Vanakorn
The reason that I finally got my ass in gear to start this blog was because of Vanessa Mae. Through a dear friend who posted a Chinese article on her on facebook, I read about this amazing world renowned violinist turned Olympic skier. She risked it all, including her relationship with her mother, to compete at this Winter Olympics in Sochi. It’s a beautiful story that brought sad and joyful tears to my eyes. I can relate to her story. I am so proud and so elated that she finally decided to pursue skiing. Yet I feel sorry that tiger moms exist everywhere, and they simply cannot see beyond what they believe is best for their children. It’s a mixed bag of feelings, it was strangely comforting that there are others out there who could understand me. And not just anybody, she’s a world-class musician! Surely, she gave up a lot more to walk away from her past than I did.
I feel compelled to start writing, to share my story. For several months, I did not know where or how to start my blog. It was the story of Vanessa Mae that pushed me to start writing.
So this is where my story begins. This is the story of a scared, broken child who lived to seek her parents’ approval, and in failing to do so, eventually lost the will to live. By sharing the story, the struggles, the re-learning and validating of a new me, my hope is to encourage just one more person to break free – whether it’s from a tiger mom/family; cultural expectations; the fucked up “norms”/values of our society; a shitty job that makes you wish the next day will never come; or the courage to be authentically you… I invite you to start by taking one small step towards freedom today. To live life the way you want to live it. There’s no need to feel that the grass is greener on the other side. Go on, get to the other side, and you can decide for yourself.
I look forward to sharing and discussing openly about mental health, my journey of recovery and self-discovery as I continue to pick up the broken pieces, and many rants of random topics ranging from yoga to sustainability; gelato to tiger moms. Stay tuned!
*When I was 29, due to sucky job situations, I moved in with the monsters (that is the nicest term I can label my mother and father) for about five months. My curfew was 10 pm. No jokes.
You can read about Ms. Vanessa Mae here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/winterolympics/article-2561900/WINTER-OLYMPICS-2014-All-smiles-British-violinist-Vanessa-Mae-despite-finishing-dead-Giant-Slalom.html