Resilience. It is a philosophy that has been implanted in children from families of Asian descent for as far as history goes. This survival strategy is practically forced upon every single individual since the day that they were born. I can’t speak much for other ethnicities but I can speak for the Chinese – if the Chinese choose to deny this for whatever reason, then I’m just technically speaking for myself at this point, but that’s okay.
At a young age, I was taught to be better than everyone else, but was always told that someone else is better. Sounds familiar? Keep reading. I could’ve easily been the cutest and active kid in the family but Mother would always say, “look at your cousin, she’s so much more obedient than you, why can’t you be like her?” I wasn’t the brightest kid in school but I wasn’t too shabby either – top bracket scores on the STAR test throughout elementary school, all honors classes and near straight A’s in middle school, “model” student in Chinese school, etc. but Mother would always say, “look at your friend, she’s so much smarter than you, why can’t you be like her?” I wasn’t always quiet at home but I also wasn’t one of those misbehaving brats we see in public nowadays, but Mother would always say “look at your little brother, he’s so much more quiet than you, why can’t you be like him?” And without fail, she never backs any of these claims up with facts to prove just how much better than me these other kids were. I could never grasp why Mother wanted me to be like everyone else, but I followed suit anyway. I started acting and behaving like everyone else, but myself. Believe it or not, this is actually extremely common amongst Chinese families so don’t pity me, just keep reading.
I had a rocky start being that I was actually transferred into kindergarten mid-year when my family had moved across town. Though the few friends that I had stuck through it all by my side to the end of fifth grade, I was frequently bullied for being the “odd one” or the “fat kid” or even because I actually spoke another language other than English. Of course, it was perfectly fine for these kids to speak in Spanish but I get all the pointing and laughing for speaking Chinese. It drove me to force myself to only ever speak English at school, I almost even refused to speak Chinese at home if it weren’t for my parents threatening me with a sandal to my behind. For those who believe that disciplining is a great way to raise a kid, I’m with you, but there’s a good way to do it and a bad way. This wouldn’t be the post to go over this and I’m not too sure if America will be shocked by this or not. I will definitely cover the topic eventually. Now the following is technically my fault, being so desperate to stop being bullied, one lie after another just came spilling out of my mouth, almost habitually rather than intentionally. The last one came about when I met someone through a mutual friend from Chinese school and we supposedly became best friends. I had not intended to lie about my popularity at school but out of habit, I did. All of those lies backfired when the bitch three-way called another kid at my school without me knowing. What happened after that haunted me for the rest of fifth grade and followed me all the way to middle school.
I was not shocked to see practically half of my fifth grade class on my first day of sixth grade since my middle school was pretty close in distance to my elementary school. Most of which have seemed pretty pleasant and hadn’t really brought up any of the pettiness from elementary. I made a few friends on my first day but that quickly brought me to hell because this girl supposedly wasn’t too nice and I was “warned” to stay away from her by “well-wishers.” Of course, how can I let someone else tell me who I can or can’t be friends with? I chose not to listen. We were “best friends” for all of a few months before this bitch turned on me too. Only, this time it wasn’t because I had lied or done anything bad, she was just fuckin bipolar. No more best friend at this point, I tried to call it truce with those “well-wishers” but was told by said people that it was “too late” to try to be friends because I “didn’t listen.” LOL okay, fuck you too. I was very fortunate to have easily connected with a couple of other girls whom I had orchestra with and a huge chunk of upperclassmen whom I met in Beacon (after school program and summer camp), we’ve been great friends ever since. The rest of middle school was still hell being that I had already lost my shot at becoming Miss Popular in my year since day one – from finding my backpack unzipped when arriving to my next class to getting my hair snipped with scissors during passing time in the hallway, I pretty much hated every day of my life in middle school. I could only vent to those friends who understood and were there for me the entire time, I could never bring this shit home because my parents wouldn’t get it and would just tell me to focus on school work anyway. I’ve shut myself out of my own family a long time ago.
One miserable morning, on my way to Chinese school on MUNI, some asshat on the crowded bus reached over to feel up on my butt, with Mother only a few steps away. I wasn’t sure if she actually witnessed it or not but she sure didn’t seem like she saw a single thing. Now, I was brought up to “not embarrass” my parents so I had actually never told this to them. What sucks about all of this is that while a child is being told to “not embarrass” their family, they’re not actually ever given an explanation of what’s considered “embarrassing” and what’s considered “stranger danger.” Sexual harassment practically became a norm for me whenever I was in Chinatown. I even recall an instance when me and my friends were enjoying an afternoon at a street fair only to find ourselves being fondled by this hairy white guy with sunglasses. Nothing fazes me at this point, my only regret is that I didn’t scream and milk every penny that that pedophile had.
High school was a breath of fresh air. I intentionally went to school on the complete opposite side of the city where only two other people (I think) from middle school were there. Granted, one of them was the bipolar bitch but I managed to ignore her pretty successfully. The first day of school wasn’t too easy because I was practically alone and did not know a single soul. I put on my best brave face and confidence and literally made my first eight or so friends by lunch time. Freshman year was a year of experiments because it truly was the first time ever that I got to be myself. I stayed true to everyone that I met along the way and vowed to never lie to another friend again. I definitely wasn’t the most popular and that no longer mattered, but I can assure you, men were easily and readily accessible. I wasn’t sure if it was my confidence, personality, or appearance, but whatever I had, I used it to my advantage. I can’t put a number on it but I had my share of fun. At this point, literally nothing in the world of the past could ever dampen my mood. I had the best time in high school even though it came with a couple of heartbreaks here and there but that’s okay, I had better friends than anybody could ask for and finally chose to fight for myself.
A rather dark time came shortly after high school where I found myself drinking and using, primarily to numb the emotional damage caused by the toxic relationship that I was in at the time. At one point, I did black out and left myself completely vulnerable. As I mentioned earlier, nothing fazes me and I brushed it completely aside when my then-boyfriend told me that I was not allowed to tell anyone what happened to me if I chose to not turn the guy in. I am sad to admit that it is indeed due to my poor judgement that I had blacked out, but I never asked for what happened afterward. This is another event that I couldn’t vent to anyone about, this time, not because I didn’t want to “embarrass” anyone, but I simply didn’t want to hear “you brought this upon yourself, it’s all your fault” over and over again.
You see, resilience isn’t exactly formally taught to children. Mother always told me to be strong but there was always a bribe behind it. At the end of the day, it actually didn’t do shit for me. I only dreaded being at home more and more and wanted to share nothing with my family. Resilience is self-taught. Children that were like me only really had two choices, you either toughen up or you give in to everything Mother said. I chose to toughen up and say “fuck you” to Mother. The majority of people in my life doesn’t know about the oppression and physical abuse that I dealt with throughout my childhood. The majority of people in my life doesn’t know that I was bullied into adolescence. The majority of people in my life doesn’t know that I was sexually harassed during my teenage years. The majority of people in my life doesn’t know about my multiple attempts at suicide due to the depression and anxiety that I suffered. The majority of people in my life never had a chance to help me because of my resilience. I had friends with me along the way, but everything that I covered here today, I dealt with alone and barely ever spoke a word of it until now.
Resilience is a way of living. Resilience is a coping mechanism. Resilience is a protective shield. Resilience can be all things good, but don’t let it prevent you from telling others what’s wrong.
DISCLAIMER (PLEASE READ!): I have been sober for years, am now an adult, am in a perfectly happy relationship and am in no way suicidal or wishing to hurt myself or others. Please DO NOT call the cops or child protective services.