My failures at school. Until now, I have allowed and accepted these memories to be coupled with feelings of regret, shame, immense self-judgment. Today I realise I have not forgiven myself for these things yet. And I realise that all of these feelings were pre-programmed to lock-me-into a specific personality.
When school began, I was extremely frightened of going to a place without my mother, and cried. My mother was my everything: my stability and my person-to-go-to-to-learn-about-the-big-world. While I was in kindergarten, every day was the same routine, and I remember actions being simple: if I was supposed to line up, I just lined up. If we were to go to French class, we went. And one day, while in a French class, I asked my best friend, “Why do we do the same things over and over, and repeat things over and over?” Matthew replied, “I don’t know” and he shrugged. Then books came into my life. My mother, what I then perceived to be the whole world, insisted on reading many books and that it would improve my English, and it was then I ‘learnt’ the idea that writing English well was an almost impossible feat, only suited for ‘gifted ones.’ So then I began buying and reading lots and lots of books. At the same time, being raised up on television, I looked to television for my entertainment and activity, when I was out of school in the afternoon. My mother would usually begin cooking dinner while she occupied me with television. I watched hours over hours of cartoons.
Then I switched schools to a grade school nearby. I noticed that homework assignments were getting more and more, and then I thought, “Why should I change? All of this homework is making school more difficult, and I must watch ONLY television after school.” And so I did not adapt to the increased workload. And so my academic record was never spectacular: because I allowed and accepted television to become my main activity. At grade school, because I felt life was ‘getting more difficult’, I reactively escaped to television to ‘ease the pressure’, and slowly but surely, television became a time of release and lulled me into a temporary form of comfort. Food was the same: it gave me pleasure, and so I used food as another method to gain a temporary form of comfort from my life, which seemed to be made more and more difficult.
In grade school, I learnt many things. I learnt that there were social rules to be followed: people would group together with people like themselves, and the most prominent group was the male and female group. Always the girls and the boys would group together separately. That was when I began making the distinction between boys and girls, and treated girls differently, since I thought I was a boy: after all, all of my activities were defined as masculine things to do, and I didn’t do any of the feminine activities. From this separation of gender, I began absorbing the fears that were fed to me in television about boy/girl relationships: how a boy must feel nervous when he is attracted to a beautiful girl, what a beautiful girl looks like, how to act in front of girls, how to act in front of boys, how to act in front of parents, how to act in front of teachers, in front of specific teachers.
I was only introduced to the concept of studying, and the idea that one must ‘study extremely hard’ to ‘earn’ the ‘top grade’, which everyone values the highest. By this time I was lulled into a pattern that would never change until I moved to Hong Kong. I began losing interest in my surroundings, and began focusing on my thoughts. I felt that my thoughts were more fascinating because they would bring up questions that I didn’t know the answer to, like “why do people separate themselves into groups?” So a fell into this cycle of slowly being ‘taken away’ from the Physical into my mind. There was a point where I would only hear the silence of my mind, and everything that I physically heard was muted, almost silent; I would hear noises without actually registering them.
I got my first report card. I never ever received a report card in my first school, at kindergarten. I was excited, genuinely. I thought, “I wonder what the teachers will say about me!” It was not the top grade, the teachers criticised me and my mother scolded me and was severely disappointed at my performance: her actions and mannerisms revealed everything. Then I wondered, and these thoughts festered and developed in me: “Why is my mom being disappointed at me, am I not good enough?” “Am I not as good as those people who got As?” “Why would the teachers say that about me? I am lazy? I am ‘not trying my best?'” “Am I a B grade student because i was born that way, whatever that means?”
Subsequently, I began identifying myself as a lazy person with the habit of watching television relentlessly and does not pay attention to studying: at the time studying was memorising lines of text and nothing more. I wasn’t interested. All day every day we would copy notes from the teacher who copied notes from her hand onto the blackboard. Immediately I felt that to be a complete waste of time, and so I never paid attention to it. The stuff we were commanded to write weren’t relevant to me either: it was just there, and I HAD to do it or else bad things would happen to me. I burrowed deeper and deeper into my thoughts, because my activities were exactly the same, everyday, boring. I began transforming from a freely expressive child into an extremely silent one: I only spoke when spoken to. And thus I developed another characteristic of my character: silent. When I was younger, I would point out things my parents never found, like a pair of keys, little details continuously and I remember one time, they complimented me: “You have an uncluttered heart, a clear heart, a clean heart.” Eventually, being silent I found out that most silent people were assumed to be thoughtful, and so that also became part of the idea of me. This idea would cover the truth that my heart was being muddled by fear and self-judgment.
As the years went by, Chinese New Year, Easter, Summer Holidays, Christmas and all over again, again and again, I continued to develop and assimilate more and more definitions of what it means to be a ‘male’ and ‘silent’ and ‘thoughtful.’ I eventually learnt that we men were supposed to ‘fall in love’ with one woman, the chosen one, someday. Then one day, I looked at a girl, and feeling exploded as I looked at that girl. I thought, “WHOA. WHAT was that?” I looked again: exploding feeling. I made the connection that I was feeling this because of the girl, and remembering that boys will feel something extraordinary with the chosen one, a girl, I immediately made the connection: “I got this feeling from that girl. I must love her, I just fallen in love with her. She is the chosen one.” Being a most exciting thing to experience, FAR more exciting than copying text onto notebooks, I continually looked at the girl when given any opportunity: I enjoyed the exhilerating feeling I seemed to receive from this girl.
Homework loads got heavier and heavier, and my interest wasn’t increasing because of the increased amount I had to memorise. “Why (THE FUCK) do I need to memorise this, if people already know this stuff? WHAT’S THE POINT?!” I would ask my mom. And she would always reply, “It’s for YOUR ‘education’. You will grow up and find a job, make money and find someone you love and raise a family and make babies.” I then thought, “But I have all I need now. Wait a minute I’m supposed to raise a family?” Raising a family became another part of my self-definition. My mom never gave me a satisfactory answer for why I had to study this drivel called knowledge. I mean, suddenly, I had to attend school and face this intense boredom daily, whether I liked it or not. If I didn’t like it, mom would get absolutely furious: she would shout at the top of her lungs all of her anger towards me, she would always use reasons along the lines of survival, “You will not survive if you do not get EDUCATED and get a degree and a job.”: I shook in fear and pain from those ordeals, I didn’t know then that I could refuse this pain, I unconditionally accepted EVERYTHING my mom said, as long as I didn’t know something else about it. So I never thought of challenging school again. It became a routine part of my life, and so boredom became routine. Studying then, was there for no purpose; as far as I investigated, there was no good reason for studying. It was just ‘normal’ for all kids to go through this thing apparently, and I silently assumed that this boredom and this pain was thus, ‘normal’ for all kids to go through. What motivation I had to go to school disappeared in an instant. Boredom and depression became my default expression.
Feeling this pain daily, I frequently thought of escaping the pain by running away from home, and I would spontaneously cry in my room, from little things that I suppressed within me, or cry thinking about running away from my mother: my father was always secluded in his TV room. My relationship with my father is another story to share and expose. I would even contemplate killing my mother, the person that, out of nowhere, placed this ENORMOUS weight of agony and pain and pressure on me. But I could never do it: my mother was still my only point of stability: WHERE ELSE would I find stable ground?! I sometimes even thought about killing myself just to stop the pain. But I was too chicken to do any of these things. I just continued going to school.
Never again was my interest awakened by education: it was the same material, just greater and greater volumes of it. I grew tired, and by then I was living as my mind, and I had other things to worry about. Like how I was supposed to confess my love for this girl, and maintaining this image of myself, and acting in consideration of all this FEAR. How am I supposed to confess my love? What if she rejects MY love? What if it doesn’t turn out the way I imagined it? And that was when I immersed myself in fear. Just fearing all day, imagining all day: the only time when I stopped fearing was when I was watching television. Thank the heavens, television is here to save me from this pain. I felt like I wasn’t moving; everything around me seemed to hold its breath, waiting for me to finish thinking. But I would never stop thinking: the fears grew in realness and intensity, and the number of fears grew into fear related to gender, and self-worth, and never being rejected by anyone again.
There was an event when I cheated on a Health topic test. The teacher found out, and it was made big deal. My mother scolded me, my teacher scolded me, and I felt immensely afraid and painful and terrible. Is doing things like cheating going to have people reject me and make me feel so BAD? I don’t WANT to feel bad anymore. And though I didn’t think it aloud, I made a silent vow never to have other people reject me again.
Around that time I found that I liked playing badminton very much, so my mother sent me to a badminton club to train. And eventually, I became admitted into the team. And loving this action, finally something I enjoyed, I thought I wanted to play badminton forever. I wanted to become a professional badminton player. After some time of intensive practice, I felt that no matter how hard I tried, I ceased to progress. This made me VERY angry, especially when I see my teammates playing better than me. I grew jealous of those better players, and extremely frustrated at how little I was progressing, no matter how much of my heart of my effort of my entire being into badminton practise. After about 12 months of practising three times a week, I grew weary of my passion. If I wasn’t progressing, as if badminton was SPITING me for my efforts, why should I keep going? Why should I, keep trying? I gave up on trying. Badminton became an activity like school: boring.
Looking back and reflecting on all of this experience with school, I suppressed extensive amounts of agonizing pain, with distractions like playing with other kids, secretly loving girls, doing extra-curricular maths, painting, playing piano, Chinese school, swimming, Lego. Whatever pleasure I seemed to derive from any of these activities, only eased the pain that I allowed and accepted in self-defeat temporarily. I never addressed this problem until now.
My grade school days formed the backbone of who I think I am today, it seems this whole time I felt like a victim to education and so let out this suppressed anger onto my parents and teachers and students and friends. Now, knowing that I determine my relationship with education entirely, I don’t need to ever feel like a victim to it again. It’s time I walked through this point one and equal to the education system that merely reflected the beliefs fears and self-judgments that I allowed myself to be governed by, and I projected my abuser onto education, when the real abuser was me.