My Story

Internal Battle (Part 1)

November 2001… the month and year that I will not cease to remember. After traveling a distance of more than 7000 miles and 15 hours, I finally landed on the very place that I had been avoiding in the past 8 years. The funny thing was, it had never occurred to me then that… the very place that I despised was also the very place where I was born and spent my first 17 years. Those memories were long replaced by various exposure to a more liberal society and living a life that was not governed by an endless list of behavioural rules and protective measures set by parents. The perfect description would be, I had tasted Freedom and now, it had been forcefully snatched away from my iron grip. When I said forcefully, I meant by the force of nature. I will delve further into this topic as soon as I laid down the summary of my childhood.

In order to understand my agony, I am required to fill in some blanks in regards of my upbringing. Malaysian Chinese are secondary citizens in Malaysia. We are not qualify for any privileges in terms of either monetary or education. Hence, we are required to work for everything that we ever desired. First, it is education and with education comes wealth. At least this is what most Chinese parents believed. Also, good behaviour has always been stressed in the family. Preserving one’s family reputation or more commonly known as ‘face’ in a Chinese family is inevitable. So you can imagine the endless list of behavioural rules.

As a daughter, I was required to posses certain skills. The direct translation from Chinese would be music, education, art and coordinating skills. Not necessarily to excel in a male dominated business world but more as assets to my personal life. Many generations ago, females who possessed these skills were required to assist their husbands in silence. However, for my generation, these skills are more to protect us from a ruthless marriage. In the first 17 years of my life, I was subjected to a rigid regime such as after school classes, piano lessons, art lessons and home lectures on what is right and what is wrong. How a female should behave and carry herself in public. Slutty behaviour is a sin. Flirting is wrong. Having sex before 21 is unforgivable.

Sounds like a base camp? Well, it wasn’t really that bad when you didn’t know any better. Life seemed pretty normal to me then. Most Chinese who aspire to be successful tend to subject their children to proper grooming. To be fair to my parents, I did enjoy my piano and art lessons. In fact, I developed a passion for both subjects. It was school that got on my nerve the most. Unfortunately, to obtain a higher education was my parents’ priority and they made pretty damn sure that we would succeed. Not any qualifications would be able to quench their satisfaction but the selected few. Such as, engineers, doctors, accountants, pharmacist, etc. Money making professionals basically.

So, regardless of how many piano recitals I had performed, how many original music I had composed, how well I could write, these were all irrelevant. Why? I quote,”These interests or minute talent of yours will not put food on the table. You are no Beethoven or Shakespeare, therefore these talents of yours are not significant enough for you to pursue the cause.” Whatever little talent that I did posses at that young age was completely shunned away by their merciless criticisms. How lost I was…

For many years I did contemplate about running away from home. As young as I was, I knew I had no means of surviving without my parents. Hence the idea of running away was buried permanently. My mother knew I was going through a very rough patch of my teenage life. She grabbed the opportunity to instill in me what made who I am today. I was taught to eradicate all weaknesses that a woman can ever possessed. Tears are pointless. PMS is an excuse for emotion. Jealousy is stupid. Men should not be able to hurt you ever. Think with logic, dismissed all emotions. Women are the weakest when they act according to emotion. You shall never ever allow your emotion to over power your logic.

By the time I turned 17, my parents managed to convince me to attend Pharmacy School. For many years to come, I kept thinking, did I really have a choice? I was forbidden to develop my interests into a career. Our family business is related to pharmaceutical. My older brother couldn’t pursue anything else but engineering. My father longed for a successor. I was his only candidate. I could rebel and break my father’s heart or I could comply and suffer for the next 10 years. Thanks to my mother’s meticulous upbringing, I couldn’t disappoint my father. I couldn’t live with myself if I ever crushed his dream. So, I suffered for the next 10 years.

Truth to be told, I do not think my decision was an altruistic act. It was more like self defense. Defending myself from any future gnawing guilt and insomnia. Allowing myself to live without regrets. No doubt, I did suffer for at least 10 years but these pains were more manageable than pains that were caused by you onto others. That was my conscience.

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