Posts tagged with "growing up"

The Ways We Grow Up

I remem­ber Christie once telling me that she always want­ed to bring presents to some­one’s house at Christmas. We were wait­ing at the train sta­tion to Toronto, our exams fin­ished, doing exact­ly that. Carrying bags with a fon­due set, maybe a can­dle hold­er, and oth­er assort­ed mis­cel­lany for my par­ents who already had every­thing.

As a sev­en­teen-year-old with an adorable baby-face, she was rarely tak­en seri­ous­ly as a mature and respon­si­ble per­son. I could tell that hav­ing this hol­i­day tra­di­tion was her way of feel­ing like an adult. Not the gro­cery shop­ping we would do, not the lin­gerie she would wear for me, or even the act of love itself, but a fam­i­ly to go to, gifts to give, a house to stay in, a lit­tle piece of matu­ri­ty.

Honda Civic 2008 exterior

Honda Civic 2008 dashboard

Honda Civic 2008 exterior

For me, it’s this car.

Not the bills. Not the house. Not the mort­gage.

It’s being able to get any­where. It’s feel­ing these keys in my pock­et and know­ing that they’re mine. It’s dri­ving home after class when it’s dark out, blast­ing a night mix on the stereo. It’s even look­ing for a park­ing spot down­town on a Monday after­noon, or get­ting stuck in traf­fic.

It’s hav­ing all these things that I’ve nev­er had before.

Lessons From a Childhood of Abuse

I often explain to peo­ple that Karaoke to the Chinese is like drink­ing to the British. We don’t pour pints at our par­ties, we sing. It’s part of the cul­ture. The Chinese-Canadian dream is a Toyota in every dri­ve­way and a Karaoke machine in every house.

My dad was no excep­tion. Like all his hob­bies, he took Karaoke seri­ous­ly. He had singing lessons from a famous teacher. Sometimes, he would record him­self and lis­ten to the tapes to ana­lyze his singing when dri­ving me to school. We would nev­er talk on those hour-long rides, I would only hear him singing, some­times along with his record­ed voice, some­times prac­tic­ing the parts that he did­n’t have quite right.

When I was young, about sev­en, I would sing one of the English songs from his col­lec­tion. I could­n’t tell you why. Karaoke did­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est me. Maybe it was a way for me to be a part of his life. He had noth­ing to do with me oth­er­wise.

Continue read­ing “Lessons From a Childhood of Abuse”…

This Is How They Love Me

Thumbnail: Shirt and tie

With presents that come fold­ed to per­fec­tion, boxed in white wrap­ping paper, and spe­cial wash­ing instruc­tions. This is the safest gift for some­one my age, unlike the guess­ing game that music, toys, or games has become.

This spe­cial­ly processed, pure cot­ton fab­ric is designed for easy care and a crisp, con­fi­dent look that lasts. The soft­ness, absorben­cy and breatha­bil­i­ty of cot­ton, enhanced with inno­v­a­tive care fea­tures, ensure opti­mum wear­a­bil­i­ty. Engineered for no-fuss, express han­dling. Requires almost no iron­ing. Today’s quin­tes­sen­tial busi­ness shirt: time-sav­ing, ener­gy-sav­ing, trav­el friend­ly.

We rec­om­mend using a mild deter­gent. Spin briefly, then hang to dry. Gently pull col­lar, cuffs and seams into shape. Touch up with a medi­um iron.

Not that I’m com­plain­ing. If it’s one thing my par­ents have been able to give me, it’s finan­cial free­dom. Never hav­ing to wor­ry about how I’m going to pay for rent, or board, or edu­ca­tion. It’s not easy for Chinese par­ents to show affec­tion, an influ­ence of the cul­ture they grew up in, so they buy me things instead.

I’m the fam­i­ly pet.

The dog they can love and take care of and want around, but not have to actu­al­ly talk to or spend time with.

These are my treats.


When peo­ple ask me what my favourite nov­el is, I tell them, “A Hero of Our Time”, and that’s been true for more than eight years now. It’s a prime exam­ple of Russian Romantic Literature, and I can appre­ci­ate that. It’s bril­liant, not only in it’s lyri­cal style but also for the com­plex­i­ty of the mind­set cap­tured by the pro­tag­o­nist, which makes it such a plea­sure to read through. It’s intel­li­gent, it’s inter­est­ing, it’s cre­ative, yet none of these things make it my favourite. It’s not even the book I’ve enjoyed read­ing the most.

It’s sim­ply been the most influ­en­tial.

Lermontov’s nov­el once offered me guid­ance (albeit blind­ly) when I need­ed it the most. His words have shaped me more than any­thing else I can think of, even though I’ve cast off most of my for­mer self relat­ed to this. I still see his work as being an inte­gral part of my devel­op­ment, in mak­ing me who I am at every chang­ing moment, and that is why I hold so much impor­tance in it.

All of it was a mat­ter of tim­ing. Otherwise, I’d prob­a­bly think that it was just anoth­er bor­ing book I was forced to read in grade 10 English.

The same goes with my rela­tion­ships, some­thing I would nev­er have thought was relat­ed to tim­ing. It’s fun­ny to think that my most sig­nif­i­cant rela­tion­ship was also my short­est by far, with a per­son who is most like­ly to think noth­ing of it at all. And every­thing that made it impor­tant to me was a com­bi­na­tion of a very spe­cif­ic mind­set I had at the time and the fact that this per­son was such a change from my pre­vi­ous girl­friend.

The same goes with my favourite movie and my favourite band. I’ve become a per­son who holds more sig­nif­i­cance in the things that change me than the things that please me.

And change is a prod­uct of time.

Reversal: Part 2 (The Floundering Mindset)

Out of the storm of life I have borne away only a few ideas — and not one feel­ing. For a long time now I have been liv­ing, not with my heart, but with my head. I weigh, ana­lyze my own pas­sions and actions with severe curios­i­ty, but with­out sym­pa­thy.

—Pechorin, A Hero of Our Time

When I was younger, I decid­ed that I want­ed to cast all my emo­tion aside, because at the time I knew noth­ing but pain. I set this as my goal, and start­ed to work towards a ster­ile, cere­bral mind­set. I want­ed to feel noth­ing, and this idea fol­lowed me through to uni­ver­si­ty.

At this time, I nev­er believed that I was com­plete­ly suc­cess­ful; I still felt too much. However, as my sit­u­a­tion changed, as I met new peo­ple with good hearts and minds, I expe­ri­enced what hap­pi­ness was like. I was nev­er sat­is­fied though, nev­er hap­py enough, and always want­ed more but could nev­er achieve it. Suddenly, it felt as if my cere­bral goal was too suc­cess­ful, and I was stuck, I was numb.

I’ve gone from one extreme to the oth­er, from want­i­ng noth­ing to want­i­ng every­thing. In both cas­es I was a fail­ure, but it’s only now that I real­ize that suc­cess would have assured­ly meant no turn­ing back. I believe that when a cer­tain extent is reached, one becomes igno­rant to any­thing that could pos­si­bly change one­self. Now I under­stand the bal­ance, the dichoto­my that absolute­ly must exist in order to have a healthy mind.

And things are much bet­ter this way.