It has been a while since I have last posted as I have been busy with finishing my first year of university due to my sick leave and in the process of putting together/writing for my book.
Today I wanted to post a blog about a very important lesson I have learned through hindsight and burnout.
Since we all are shaped by our communities, our society, the time and place we live in, and how we are brought up… it isn’t too big of a mystery that a lot of my attitudes and beliefs come from things I’ve learned from my parents.
As an obedient kid growing up, I still think I am for the most part, I feared consequences. I did things not fully controlled by fear, but it was what pushed me to complete homework or become disciplined to practice piano and clean the house when my friends were playing outside. I was scared of the “what ifs.” So I always gave my 110% in the things I knew that would matter in the future (academics, work, extracurriculars) due to a fear that I would regret not working hard when I look back on it. It still plagues me today. I think one of my greatest fears is regret. But the ironic reality is that like most people I don’t usually regret anything that I’ve done, it’s mostly what I did not do.
For the most part, I did what my parents, teachers, and society expected me to do. And I can say that I did decent or above average in most of it. I was lucky though. From a young age, I was conditioned to do things I don’t like to do (be a mom to my sister, cook, clean, etc). I also loved to read which inevitably helped me a lot in school. I had the skill of loving to do things that I didn’t like, and genuinely loving things that I did like (volunteering, doing internships, studying for school to get good grades).
So, life worked for me in the sense that I knew what I wanted, loved what I did, and I could see myself and fulfill that potential I put forth for myself. I lived by “work hard, chase dreams,” with the naive sense that if I just loved something and worked hard enough, that I would achieve all my dreams.
That happened for most of my life. I was able to achieve all but one of my dreams that I had set forth from the age of seven to the age of seventeen (hint: if you know me well and follow my blogs, you might figure it out)! In a decade of time, I was successful in terms that I had achieved my goals and grown as a person.
I never knew what it was like to be thrown on a detour. Time and time again, these random lung collapses that doctor’s didn’t know why happened, kept happening to me. Despite, sleeping, eating, and exercising to maintain a healthy body. The unexpected propelled me into a completely new journey I did not want to go on. For the first time, I had to make decisions in my life that I could not comprehend or want to comprehend. I had to make decisions that were stunted by the limitations of my health; things I did not choose or want.
It finally occurred to me the huge amount of privilege I had as a healthy teenager. I could pursue whatever I wanted without too much thought. Even though I am still healthy, what has happened has placed me in an area where I cannot pursue just what I want anymore.
Over 18 years ago, my parents arrived in Canada leaving their comfortable and successful lives back in China with the hopes of giving me a better future. My dad had one year left in his schooling for a PhD (Doctorate in Physics) when the visa came through. Due to other family circumstances, my parents both decided that the best time to leave would be 1998. In 1999, they brought me over to Canada and they started their lives again. They worked labour extensive jobs: my dad lifting logs in factories and working the night shift at a gas store while redoing his degree while my mom washed floors in restaurants. You see, my dad loves physics. But he gave up that dream of his to pursue physics in Canada because he knew he would be unable to pursue higher degree jobs (with Canada not recognizing his degrees from China). He started over with studying Computer Science and now works as a Computer Scientist but he doesn’t love it. He goes in day in and day out to support his family.
When I think about that, I not only understand the sacrifice my parent’s made for me to access a better future, but I also understand that sometimes having an undeniable love for something is not enough. Circumstances will prevent you from achieving your dreams. And even though it’s never too late to achieve your dreams, sometimes timing just really sucks and some people just don’t have the privilege of taking risks to get to their unfilled potential.
I was super idealistic before the fifth collapse. I planned everything out, knew exactly where I was going and what kind of person I wanted to be. Right now, I’m just treading between the person I am and who I want to be with no sense of direction. My life has altered in ways that are permanent and unchangeable and I’m still trying to swim in a sort of direction. But I’m still treading aimlessly and for the first time in my life, I’m so clueless about my future and it’s so scary. I’ve realized that perhaps love for something isn’t enough. It’s also about your circumstances and so with that being said all I know is that I want to empower people so that they have the privilege of achieving their dreams and unfilled potential. So it’s not just the 1% getting richer and more successful. So it’s not just the construction of society benefiting the super privileged of able bodied, white, male, heterosexual, and the list goes on. As Mark Zuckerburg said, it’s not enough for us to find our own purpose, our generation needs to create purpose and provide opportunities for EVERYONE.
For the first time in my life now, I’m understanding what it’s like to not be able to pursue what I love. The first time that I need to suck it up and do what I need to do, whether I like it or not. It definitely wasn’t anything what I wanted but it’s giving me the experience that life goes to keep moving on and I can’t let it pass me by.
So I’m trekking on, launching myself into a completely new career path and a new school. I am so scared and I am so sad about my previous dreams, but life has changed me and I have changed. The world around me might still be the same in certain ways, but I can’t live the life I previously wanted to have and that’s okay. It’s all just a learning process