I never thought about what my personal values and principles were, at least, not explicitly.
On that topic, after a deeper dive, I realized mine have varied a fair bit in the past 3.5 years since I got to Hong Kong.
Most of you know I grew up in a dual East Asian and Western environment. The East Asian influence coming from my parents and the Western influence coming from traditional Canadian values which include freedom, integrity, acceptance and diversity. There are more, but those were the ones that spoke to me.
The only principle I follow at the moment.
But what does freedom mean to you? It’s quite subjective, isn’t it?
For me, freedom has many fronts.
I took this concept of freedom for granted prior to moving to Hong Kong. The only worry I had was financial freedom and sustainability, but that is another topic in itself.
Chalk it up to the loneliness of being here alone.
Chalk it up to self-doubt.
Chalk it up to fear.
Chalk it up to wanting to be accepted.
I didn’t realize I put myself in an imaginary cage trying to conform to everyone’s expectations. For the past three years, my values became engrained on being the perfect Asian girl and girlfriend.
Be the good Asian girl.
Don’t talk back.
Don’t think, just do.
Be the good girlfriend.
Be as stick skinny as possible.
Shut up, sit still and look pretty.
Being a trophy wife was the ultimate goal.
That combined with an inferiority complex and perfectionism nearly destroyed me, mentally and physically.
You see, I’ve had to earn respect from others throughout my youth, proving that my background did not, would not, and should not hinder me. And often, respect is earned by being at the top. So I strived to be the best, or in my mind, to be perfect.
I was the girl who would never go to class yet ace the exams, making top grades look easy.
I was the girl who earned a coveted Investment Banking internship in first year without the help of family connections.
I was the girl who was in all the best parties and events.
I was the girl who would party nights on end, while looking fresh as a daisy come Monday.
I was the girl who took the maximum course load while balancing writing for a magazine, being in the business school fashion show, and teaching underprivileged students.
I was the girl who lived in the posh neighborhood in Downtown Toronto.
I was the girl who hosted house parties.
I was the girl who downed half a large Pepperoni pizza and still wore size 00.
I was the girl who made life look easy and effortless.
Life was good, I was supposed to be happy.
Behind the scenes, I always felt inferior.
I was never good enough.
And that manifested itself into a cycle of continually striving to do more, be more, make it look even more effortless.
And then I came to Hong Kong.
I quickly realized the values people held here were vastly different than the ones in Canada.
Naively, I conformed to fit in.
I became obsessed with being the perfect everything. And I quickly realized it was unsustainable, and more importantly, unrealistic.
Prior to coming to Hong Kong, I never had a problem with my previous relationship in Canada, there was respect, mutual understanding and acceptance. It ended when our future goals no longer aligned with each other, mine being to move to Asia whereas he wanted to stay in Canada.
There were multiple red flags I purposely chose to ignore when I entered my previous relationship in Hong Kong.
There was respect in the beginning, which quickly dissipated and I was pushed to being the Perfect Asian Girlfriend.
Shut up, sit still and look pretty.
I say, you do.
The friendships I made in Hong Kong deteriorated.
I was no longer part of the tech startup scene that I was a fan of.
The worst part, I was fully in control of the situation.
I could have left at any moment.
But I didn’t.
I put myself in that cage.
And when I finally found the courage to leave, I opened the flood gates.
I went 150% into everything, from overbooking social events to attending every tech meet-up to mentoring multiple students to traveling solo.
It was too much, too soon.
And that’s when my body rebelled against me, hard.
My digestive system shut down completely.
I was out of commission for three months, on traditional Chinese medicine and attending weekly acupuncture sessions to stimulate the muscles to function again.
I learned a very valuable lesson.
So what does freedom mean to me?
To be free from the trap of perfectionism.
To be free from harsh self-judgement.
To be free from self-doubt.
To be free from unnecessary guilt.
To be free from forced conformity.
To be free from feeling inferior.
To be at peace with myself.
Back in the day, I opened a blog on Xanga to document my weight loss progress.
Little did I know, I slowly grew a following of a few hundred girls and a handful of boys. When one of my followers reached out to me about her own insecurities regarding her physical appearance, it hit me hard.
When I was a kid, I was dubbed the ugliest girl in school.
I was short.
I was overweight.
I wore thick nerd glasses.
I had pimples all over my face.
I had slits for eyes because my face was so fat.
I had greasy hair that looked unwashed for days.
I had to wear hand-me-downs that were so worn because I was poor.
I remember the pain.
I remember the tears.
I remember the darkness.
I remember the loneliness.
And I don’t want another person to feel that same way I did.
Instead of merely documenting my daily food intake and exercise regime, I decided to use the platform to share my own insecurities so that other girls could relate and feel that they weren’t fighting the battle alone.
Because everyone deserves to feel beautiful.
Because everyone has good and bad days.
Because no one deserves to go through this alone.
Sorry for being MIA, I was in Tokyo for the past week and am slowly uploading my ventures both on Instagram and on here.
One of the most interesting places I went to was not a temple or one of the busy shopping streets or an owl cafe, but a warehouse in the outskirts of Tokyo.
So why was this warehouse so enticing?
Because it had a small replica of the Kowloon Walled City, a dystopian slum with no laws within Hong Kong.
Think of dense, dark underworld of Blade Runner, Dredd, Total Recall, and Neo Seoul from Cloud Atlas. Basically, all things cyberpunk would have found some form of inspiration to build that dystopian future setting we know and love.
The original Kowloon Walled City was demolished in the 90s and a park was built in its place. There were stories about life inside the city and photos, however, to really be in that atmosphere is an entirely different experience.
The Kawasaki Warehouse is actually a 4-storey arcade with the first 2 floors dedicated to a recreation of the Kowloon Walled City.
They even have a broadcast of Chinese aunties talking about visiting it to buy some necessities. If you play the video, you can hear it in the background.
Like the original KWC, there is hardly any light in the corridors.
The entrance to KWC through the parking lot.
The doors slide open and you enter this eerie walkway. You have to walk across the stones while an ominous music plays in the background and green liquid spills from both walls.
The backdrop of the arcade in KWC.
They say the buildings were so close to each other that no sunlight entered the city.
Meat in the market.
On the second floor, there are narrow walkways you walk along to peek into some of the building windows.
One such window.
True to culture, clothes dangling precariously outside windows.
It reads 1 bedroom and 1 living room, 395 sq. ft. for rent at 3800HKD/mo.
A prostitute’s home.
In KWC, it was not uncommon to find such small rooms and people living in them. Crime was rampant inside.
Upon exiting – photo from the video.
If you were in the Yokohama area, it is worth checking out. I wouldn’t make it a day trip as you only need to spend 1 hour there.
Here is the map:
After moving to Hong Kong, I quickly realized how different my viewpoints and opinions were, comparative to the local populace.
The most evident being family and upbringing.
My parents gave up everything in Shanghai to move to Hong Kong back in the day.
And then, they gave up everything they built in Hong Kong to move to Canada when I was born.
To start from zero twice; it’s not easy. They faced language barriers and discrimination, but they endured. For the goal of building a better life.
This meant, they had no time to raise us.
Growing up, my parents were very transparent on our situation and I am always thankful that they were. Rather than trying to shield us and raising us with a silver spoon, they made it a point to inform us we could not have what our peers had. When I was 4 years old, I already knew the world was unfair and we had to do something about it.
To that degree, my parents, my siblings and I have built our relationship on the foundation of improvement. We may see each other once or twice a year, but during those times, we truly value our time together.
When I look at family interactions here – they are highly emotional, the gatherings frequent and routines micromanaged.
It confuses me.
I did not even tell my parents I was moving to Hong Kong. My mother only found out when she dropped me off at the airport. And when I told her my plan, she threw a box of Ferrero Rocher at my head.
When I first got to Hong Kong, I had very little money, I ate one meal a day and I slept on the floor without a mattress. But I was driven. I remember lining up 3-5 interviews a day for the two weeks I was here, determined to land a job in that timeframe.
Three years later and I can finally accommodate my family when they visit, in a proper bed and a proper home.