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.
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.
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”…
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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.
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.