This used to be the house I grew up in, in Shanghai. It was dilapidated, crowded and the washroom was outdoors, an outhouse if you will.
It’s important to remember where you came from.
For myself, it’s really about my parents.
They sacrificed their comfort and lives in Shanghai to move to Hong Kong. Without knowing the local language and forgoing their degrees, they worked four menial jobs to afford a marriage and subsequently, enough to buy a house. Finally when they finally started to see the fruits of their labor, they left everything again and moved to Canada. For the purpose of giving my siblings and I the notion of freedom, an education system focused on creativity and fostering change. So for the second time, they packed their bags, left stability and had to rebuild from zero again.
Growing up, I had a hard time processing this and in hindsight, I was quite immature.
At the time, I was immature, wondering why other kids had new clothes, summer trips abroad and new gadgets. I, on the other hand, worked after school and during summers, saving up for university expenses. The jobs were not ideal either.
Would you believe me if I told you I worked as both a trash lady and a toilet washer?
One of my first jobs was to move trash from shops in a mall to the general trash room through the food court alley. Back then, I was more afraid of tripping and falling face first into the bloody mats where they cut meat. On top of that, I had to clean the toilets at a restaurant.
But now, looking back, it helped me appreciate my parents’ humble beginnings. Two chemical engineering graduates, giving up their degrees, to clean houses and be a pizza hut wait staff in Hong Kong, all for the purpose of giving their future kids a better life. That’s a sacrifice not many are willing to make.
Growing up, we didn’t have much but we had enough.
Because they were always working, their style of parenting was vastly different. Rather than guiding us, they simply gave us a checklist and the freedom to achieve said checklist.
That’s how my life was always run.
Checklist after checklist
Goal after goal
But what happens when the checklist becomes empty?
That’s what I found out earlier this year.
The goal I set for myself before I hit 30, I’ve achieved it already.
But, what happens next?
I decided to focus my energy on making myself happy, something I neglected because I was so focused on my goals.
When it came to happiness, I did not know where to start.
Emotions were a whole new territory for me. At times, I felt guilty for taking time to myself, especially at the beginning.
But now, I decided for the next year, I will be spending more time and money on myself to better manage the stress, to take better care of myself and to avoid burnout.