Oct. 12

Why do I let such little things hurt me?

My words falter, lips stutter

Stunned, stung

Torn between anger and sadness

A dose of sheepishness for good measure

My body collapses into itself

To shrink ever more in this too large world

Why am I so foolish?

To think you’d treat me to empathy

Is unfortunately as futile as expecting

The revolution of the sun upon my axis.

It’s hopeless.

Because by standards deemed within society,

Humans are a reflection of empty credentials

With little humanity to fill bones.

You don’t lose sleep over this 

While it devours my mind with such fervor

I have lost all capacity to rationalize

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if we were having tea: summer edition

It has been a while since my last installment of this series. Over the course of the last month, I have began to feel a change within my life, a creeping anticipation for what’s to come in the fall.

One thing that I have noticed is about how I feel a tendency to write and articulate when I am only upset, angry, or disappointed. It’s strange for me to find myself in front of my computer typing away with the same vigour and passion when it’s about something positive. I wanted to change that. I want to learn to write when I am happy, to capture my ‘highs’ with the same authenticity as my worst days. I wanted to have something pleasant to reminisce in on this blog, a form of therapy from my past self.

So, here we are having tea, iced of course, in this suffocating summer heat at dusk. The sky has melted into a puddle of deep oranges, with indigo beginning to spill in from the eastern edges. The sounds of cars no longer call for the same attention, nor do the happenings from earlier in the day. The sharp flavors of the chilled tea tickle the words from my throat and I begin to speak.

I tell you about how my grandfather passed away two weeks ago. I was never super close with him growing up, physically mainly, which often means emotionally as well when you are too young to grasp the concept of ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’. It wasn’t a sudden passing as he has been ill in the hospital for over a year. But that’s the thing, he was a tough guy, a few years short of a century old, having lived through war, cultural revolutions, and financial hardships while raising a family of five children, the idea of this history written in his wrinkles and calloused skin being erased completely after having lived on for so long seemed impossible. I had kind of convinced myself there was always at least one more day left in him, each day, just one more entry in his tens of thousands page story, there ought to be room.

It was the greatest shock to my mother. Of the five siblings, she is the only one who lives out of China, and aside from her annual visits back home, she becomes sort of blind to the realness of my grandfather’s deteriorating health, the fragility of life captured in his thin body. In a matter of minutes of receiving the news, I helped her book her flight back to China for the next day. We didn’t speak of the details of the circumstances, she still hadn’t processed the gravity of it all at that point. The next morning, I drove to the airport and dropped her off. It has been two weeks since his passing and my mom has returned home. She showed my sister and I old black and white pictures of my grandfather and told me stories about his life. He was born in Vietnam, educated in Hong Kong during the British Crown rule which is why he learned English, and grew up without a strong father figure. At around 14, he was taken into a rich family to be a peer to their son and accompany him to his different lessons. In fact, that was how my grandfather ended up learning to play the violin. During the Japanese invasion, he was a translator because he could speak both Chinese and English so while the other men received one bag of rice at the end of each day’s labour, he would  receive two bags which he would bring home to his family. He has endured the strenuous trek from Hong Kong to Guangzhou on foot, losing his brother in the process. By the time he was in his thirties, he had enough life experience that would age him significantly compared to people of the same age in our generation. He was a strict father, often disciplining my mother and her siblings. He instilled in them a value for education from a young age which is why almost all of his children have had a career in teaching at one point or another. My one aunt is the only one who went straight into nursing instead.

She was there 15 minutes after his heart stopped that day, calling his name. In that moment, her instincts to save a fading life had to fight with her own feelings as a daughter who had seen her father suffer for so long, was she going to cause more pain for a potential of a few more minutes of his time? Ultimately, she let nature run its course and like that, my grandfather moved on.

I now realize that I had mentioned earlier about how I wanted to write about happy things and yet our conversation has led me to this story about death. But there is a positive sentiment in this, I promise.

The day my mother returned, she recounted all these stories above to me and in that moment, I recognized her love for her father, and her loss she had felt. She told me how in the Chinese culture, when one reaches over 95 years old, their funerals shouldn’t be sad, it isn’t meant for tears. When one has lived a long life, they are revered in the community. It is considered an honour. She told me about how beautiful the roses looked surrounding his casket. She recalled the remarks my cousin made about the place they passed on the way to the funeral, it being where my grandfather use to take him as a kid for meals. Every little detail was imbedded in the story. I could see the legacy that my grandfather had left behind in his children and grandchildren, each and every one of them with personal anecdotes of their time with him. I think that’s when you know you have lived a meaningful life, it’s when people are able to recall specific, seemingly trivial memories they have shared with you, with fondness.

I have learned a lot about love this summer, not in the romantic sense. Love, I think in its unadulterated form is about gratitude. That’s where it begins. In my culture, where words of affection are hard to coax from our mouths, we resort to acts of service, a sign of appreciation for people. Self sacrifice is the language of our communication. Time and energy being the currency of our system. And I don’t know why it has taken me this long to realize this but, boy am I in debt.

I received a letter from the premier’s office last week notifying me that I had received a scholarship for an essay I had written about my mother’s government operated company and its impact on the lives of people in the province. I told the story of how my mother had spent over a decade working to support her two children alone, when all the odds were stacked against her, and managed to get us from our low income government housing to our modest home that she was finally able to purchase 6 years ago. She sacrificed her thirties working in a male dominated field driving forklifts and lifting boxes, trying to prove herself in the workplace. She wasn’t dealt fair cards, but she didn’t quit and continued working with this optimism that better days were to come. Though I was the one who received the scholarship, in many ways I don’t feel like I deserve it, all I had to do was write about the incredible things that my mother has done. I told her the news while she was still in China and she congratulated me, but in that moment, I felt as though I should have told her how proud I was of the things that she had accomplished, told her about my gratitude for her. I wanted to show her that just as she recognizes the sacrifices my grandfather had made for her upbringing, I also acknowledge her forfeits in mine.

So there you go, see, I told you there was something nice to come of this story. Go out there and tell someone you appreciate them today, that you love them, or better yet, show them.

 

a note for future self: a simple happiness

My fondest memory of my childhood were the hundreds of mundane afternoons that strung one after each other where I would pluck vines from the playground of my daycare and tie them to the monkey bars because I was convinced I could be Tarzan and build my own jungle. Each afternoon, I had to start anew, with the bare metal frame of the bars and slowly build the botanical layers. With my poor grasp of physics, my brain had committed to the idea that a plausible goal of each day’s construction was to build a jungle from the frail vines that could sustain my body weight, so I could swing about like a true creature of the wild. The funniest, but most endearing part about the memory was that I was so enthralled by this process that I voluntarily did the exact same thing every afternoon I had a chance to. Each afternoon, forgetting my lack of success the previous day in building a complete jungle, I would start from scratch, with a greater sense of purpose than before, that today, I was going to finish. This pure, unrelenting persistence for something that really didn’t yield anything in return, something so futile it makes children seem like the most strange beings, this is what I love the most about this memory. It is the small idiosyncrasies like these that lay the foundation of who I am. It is what I first learned to derive happiness in life from. It was simple. It didn’t cost a penny. That’s what true happiness should be. A visceral experience that are sometimes inexplicable.

 

I wanted to share this anecdote so that future me can look back on this post and remind herself the beauty of failure, the need for resilience, and its inherent existence within each and every one of us from birth. That zealous 7 year old girl needs you to show her that you have not forgotten how a strong self belief is worth infinitely more than the daily rejection by mother nature and the laws of physics. This is little Selina telling you to not just endure, but enjoy the challenges that life throws at your way. Find happiness from it, discover contentment within yourself.

coming of age

I have written a lot of empowering pieces about the importance of being self sufficient in the past, but having turned 18 this year and being considered a somewhat more official ‘adult’ in modern society, the most bizarre, paradoxical thing has happened. I realized that I need people more than ever before. Not because I’m afraid to spend time alone, not because I need help jump starting the car, but because I realized that I would not be where I am today without the love and support of people around me. For the longest time, I had convinced myself it was a weakness to show people you care, to speak openly about your insecurities, or to feel a craving for company. I thought it was a fault by being such an open book, and letting others dissect who you are. Since entering the precipice of adulthood, I have come to the conclusion that real courage is seen in the way you allow others to see you. I say ‘allow’ because most of the time, we do not give permission for ourselves to be authentic. We create an ideal image that we project into the world, or sometimes we distance ourselves. The problem with that is, we will never find real happiness because profound connections to other humans are derived from honesty, from vulnerability. You will never do justice to yourself if you don’t share your ideas, your love, and your truth with those around you.

graduation.

I graduated less than a week ago from high school.

I have yet to fully comprehend the fact that those were permanent goodbyes that I dealt out, that it would be the last time my grad class would be assembled together. In the heat of the moment, and I mean it literally because the auditorium was incredibly warm, I found my mind drifting into nothingness. I kind of wish I had something more poignant that struck me as my peers’ names were being called, but my overall sweatiness forbade my mind from wandering elsewhere. Now that I’m finally winding down from the events, I suppose I have some sentiments that I could express.

Gratitude is the first thing that comes to mind. I have received an education that was relatively affordable whilst others in this world are deprived on this necessity. I also have immense appreciation for the people who have supported me the last five years whether it was inside or outside the classroom.

High school has been a tiny representation of the world that exists beyond me. It has taught me a lot about myself, the meaning of resilience, and the importance of relationships. I am finally learning to feel comfortable in my own skin, but I’ll admit that some days are harder than others. It’s all part of a process, and one that will continue as I embark on a new chapter.

In the last year, as part of becoming more confident in who I am and what my values are, I have ended and begun new friendships. I feel more connected to the people that I choose to spend my time with. A part of growing up was about accepting that friends grow apart and acknowledging that I have a choice in maintaining relationships or not. People who end up dissipating from my life are results of choices I have made to stop trying. And that’s ok.

My health has been at the forefront of the last few months, both physical and mental. I had taken it for granted for so long and it wasn’t until I experienced what it would feel like if my health were to limit my every day life, that I realized just how valuable a sound body is. My body is my home and I had been neglecting it. I have since made an effort to establish better habits because the truth is, I have to learn to care for myself because it’s no one else’s responsibility.

If you told me a year ago that I would have to come to terms with graduation by this point, I would have scoffed and immediately forced that thought to the farthest corners of my mind. But here I am, addressing it the best that I can and learning to accept my reality. A part of me is unsettled my the amount of change that is about to take place in the next few months, but another part of me knows that it is what I need, when one is comfortable for too long, we become stagnant, and I guess this is my time to push those boundaries. Here is to a new era.