I lovelovelovelovelovelovelove learning. But not like this.
I never have enough time for everything, but then again who does?
I can feel it mounting up at the sides of my head. I’m going to break soon. Let’s just hope it’s after next Friday, when I have time to break.
I can just feel the two-weeks-from-now deadline’s hot breath on the back of my neck. It’s right behind me and wants to consume me.
What if everything I’ve ever wanted all comes crashing down in front of me? What if it’s just not meant for me? What if I’m in the wrong business, wanting the wrong thing? What if I’m just not cut out for it? What if it all happens again?
I know what could happen.
What if I fail? What if I’m mistaken? What if I lose it all?
Pressure gets to me in ways I don’t even understand.
For a long time, I haven’t thought about where I come from. Suddenly while lying restlessly in the night, I found myself thinking about my maternal grandparents and the day I left Hong Kong. I’ll never forget that morning. I remember my flight being scheduled for the afternoon, but I left our apartment at around 7am or 8am. I remember my grandfather putting both his hands on my shoulders and telling me I’m a man now, telling me to work hard and make my mother proud, and to remember that all the family love and support me. I remember most of all my grandmother and I standing near the front door. She placed both of her hands on my face and told me to always take care of myself, study hard, and be sure to stay in touch whenever I could. And I looked at her and saw that she had teary eyes. And it was only did I realize that I, too, could’ve been teary-eyed at that moment, but had subconsciously subdued it perhaps to make it easier. But before I could contemplate that any further, she drew me in to kiss me on the cheek, and to lift her hands from my face and hug me tight. And oh, my God, I will never forget her crying in my arms, as I looked around the apartment, the kitchen, the bathroom, that I had perused for my entire life up until that point. This frail sixty-something woman had helped to raise me, and as I grew older, I never lost my close relationship with her. That moment made me think about all the times we went out to have morning tea together, how she took care of me when I was ill, and the times I shouldn’t have lost my temper and slammed the door in her face. I could recall all the times she would put vegetables in my bowl against my will, the day she taught me how to play mahjong, and the times she would bring me a bowl of hot soup to drink on a cold, winter’s night. I remembered the computer lessons i gave to her, the scarves that she had knit me, and the day she cancelled her plans to go Christmas shopping to bring me to the doctor when I got chicken pox. I remembered my life with this woman. We were two generations apart, and yet I don’t think any person in the world bar my mother, to this day, loved, and continues to love, me more.
A whirlwind of memories stormed through my mind, and I wanted to get emotional too, but my grandmother had already let go, and it was time to leave. And I found myself walking towards the door, then through it. My grandparents followed me outside and I have them both another quick hug. And they both were putting on brave faces, with eyes and half-smiles that told me they wished we could drag this goodbye longer - perhaps another five minutes, another day, or another year. And as I turned away and walked away from that door, I bowed my head and cried. A narrow stream of saltwater ran down my cheeks and dripped off my chin, and I kept looking down until i reached the car. Just as I got on my transport to the airport, I looked back at both of them and shouted one last “bye bye!”, with no worry that everyone else in the apartment block would hear me. And they both waved back, and my grandma shouted goodbye in return, and then I left.
I cried later on when I spoke to my cousins and my mother for the last time on the phone before I boarded my plane. But the moments I shared with my grandparents were the toughest for me that day. This is especially so in hindsight because my grandfather’s health began to deteriorate after I left for university. While he was still standing on his own two feet when I left him, when I returned the next summer, he had developed a general lethargy and was prone to getting severe cramps and coughs during the nights. When I came back in the winter of that year, he had resigned to sitting down all day, and his kidneys and liver were failing him. In the following July, nearly two years after I had left for the UK, I found him very weak when I came home to stay with my grandparents then. We went through an intermittent stage when he was moved to a clinic for elderly people that could leave soon, but his condition got better after a while. He was allowed to go home again, only not for very long. And while I was at my part-time job one night, I got a call from my aunt saying it was near the end. That’s a whole other story in itself, that night, but that’s not what I want to write about now.
For a long time, I haven’t thought about his death or the day that I left Hong Kong. But the retrospect really does put a lot of things in perspective. It’s very… powerful, the human tendency to get caught up in the trivial things of the present. And to forget where you came from and how and why you got to the point you’re at now. There are many petty, nitty-gritty things I get up to in my day, in my week, and in my degree, but really, one of the most important things I hold close to my heart, if not THE most important thing, is the love and support my family gave me when I was younger, and continue to give me while I’m away. I’ll always remember the sacrifices they gave for me to be here today, chasing my academic and career goals. I’ll always remember the lessons they taught me and the words they said on that day. I do forget sometimes, however, what stepping out of that apartment meant for my grandparents and myself. I had chosen to leave them, in essence. I had chosen to have another life outside a life with them. And as grandparents and my guardians when my mom was at work, they had to accept that reality and find it in themselves to support my decision. I forgot that for the past year or so, but I should really remember it. If you had to ask me who I do this for, in some ways, I do this for them more than I do it for either myself or my mother. They built the foundation for my wonderful, wonderful life to be developed on, and I owe everything I own materially and inside me to them. I vow never to forget that again, during the rest of my undergraduate course and beyond.
A mixture of emotions wrapping their fingers around my heart and clenching hard. The last straw. Done. Finished. The end. What a fucking headache.
Acceptance doesn’t equal appreciation. Acceptance doesn’t mean respect, tolerance, or satisfaction either. “Just learn to accept it”, they say, when accepting it doesn’t count for squat to make things better. I’d sooner get accustomed to ignoring it and forgetting it, then learn to accept this shit. This is finished.