Write Minds.Write Matters
A monthly column by Alexis of her thoughts on things that matters to her. It may be funny, serious, both, neither or some combinations of those. "My thoughts are my own - the only thing I really own."
Follow her on Instagram (@alex.is_imm).
I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values - and follow my own moral compass - then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own. ~ Michelle Obama
[ Translated Chinese version here 中文翻譯在此 ]
Have you ever felt like you are not living up to your expectations? Do you feel like you are a disappointment to your family?
I have. I do.
And Chinese New Year is often the time when you are reminded time and again of the kinds of things expected of you. “How are your grades?”, “What are you majoring in?”, “How much are you earning?”, “How many months bonus are you getting?”, “When are you getting married?”, “When are you having a baby?”, “When are you having a brother/sister for your son/daughter?”, “When are you buying a house?”.
I can safely say that these questions, or some version of the questions have been posed to many, if not everyone. We are supposed to get good grades, get into a good university, get a good job, get married, get a house and have kids. Anyone who strays from this roadmap is deemed “rebellious”, “unfilial”, “selfish”, “defiant” or simply “bad”. If I may be presumptuous, many Asian queers would be labelled as such due to the fact that we cannot get married to the person we love. Personally, I have been called all of them over the years, though mostly behind my back.
Frankly, I do not blame people who think so. Based on the societal expectations, I am a failure. Although I did get good grades and did get into a good university, I threw away the chance of a career, didn’t get married, didn’t get a house and didn’t have kids. I have nothing tangible to my name. As long as I am not married, I am ‘immature’. As long as I do not have a husband, I am ‘incomplete’. As long as I do not have a high-paying job, I am being a ‘parasite’. As long as I do not own a house, I am ‘poor’. As long as I do not have a family of my own, I am a ‘burden’.
All the things I have done, learned and experienced mean nothing as long as I do not have a career. All the great friends I have made and the wonderful people I have had the opportunity to know mean nothing as long as I am not married. It does not matter that I do not have the usual chronic lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high uric acid that many of my peers suffer from. It does not matter that I look and feel younger than most of my peers. It does not matter that I am doing things that I love. It does not matter that I am debt free. In their eyes, these things do not matter at all.
In societies where your financial and marital status are the only things that matter, it is not surprising that “success” is being measured by what you have and not who you have become. No one cares if you hate your job as long as you still draw a huge paycheck. No one cares if you’re unhappy in your marriage as long as you have a spouse. No one cares if you’re miserable in either one or both of them as long as you checked the boxes of good job and marriage. Everyone is supposed to abide by these societal expectations.
It is hard not to be affected by how the society views me. It is hard not to feel like I am letting my parents down for not providing them with a better life after what they have done for me. It is hard not to feel like I am being unfilial for not giving them what they wanted - a family of my own. It is hard not to think that I am throwing away my education when I could have made much more progress up the career ladder. It is hard not to be really disappointed with myself for all the expectations that I am not meeting. It is hard not to get depressed whenever I think about my lack of spouse/family. It is hard not to feel worthless whenever I see how well my peers are doing in their careers. It is hard not to ponder if I am really wasting my time and energy doing things that I love but pay nothing. It is hard not to feel overlooked and inconsequential.
Truth be told, these feelings are hard to reconcile. Every now and then they consume me. Over the years, I have learned to not let those feelings overwhelm me. And I know I am not alone in feeling all these. I have to believe that life is what I made it out to be, not what others wanted mine to be.
We have but one life on this Earth. We have one chance to make our lives worth something. I cannot change the things that had already happened, neither can I change the things I have no control over. There is no use pondering over the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’. All I can do is to make sure I don’t disappoint myself. I can never make everyone happy. All I can do is to make myself happy, which is hard enough. That’s all I can do. And that’s all I will do.
(Editor: Zac.) (Photo from Alexis; Column graphic: modified from www.pngtree.com)