[quote=“bighoneydog”]Gosh, how I can relate to this thread! Although I don’t think this attitude is restricted to Taiwan but is a general Chinese cultural thing. I grew up overseas all my life but my mother (Taiwanese) NEVER let up on the pressure to be #1 in class, highest grades, best schools, best university - while also doing every extra-curricular activity under the sun (funny, sport & physical exercise didn’t seem as important) so I would have good “chee-zr” (the closest equivalent in English is I think the Austen term “accomplished”) - I just always knew, as an unspoken rule from the day I could understand things, that you HAD to study and be the top and it completely defines you - it’s ingrained in you. It’s almost like brain washing - and the drive to achieve comes as much from guilt and fear of not being #1, as from the pride in achieving (which SHOULD be the reason).
But I totally agree - it’s very sad - it does produce people who care more about rankings and numbers than actually learning anything. It’s not that they can’t think for themselves but they don’t try to as they don’t take any pride in independent thought. I also agree that in many cases, parents simply see kids as an extension and reflection of their own status - and their achievements as a way to “gain face” and get one up on their social competitors.
I know my mother was always comparing me and my siblings to her friends’ kids and getting satisfaction if we “beat” them at certain things. I think, sadly, she very much lived her life through us - like a lot of Chinese mothers, she gave up all attempts at a life for herself just to become a full-time ‘mother machine’ and I think all her frustrated energies had to be directed somewhere - so the full beam ended up on her children. We had to achieve what she couldn’t - plus make her look good while at it. Oh, I’m not saying that she didn’t love us or genuinely believe that academic achievement would make our futures better for us - but it’s all sort of tied up together.
I think the saddest thing is that it makes for a LOT of frustrated, unhappy, unfulfilled people who then turn those frustrations on THEIR children when they in turn have them. I have a lot of Chinese friends who are very unhappy doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc…it’s especially hard, I think, if you are a “creative” type as those leanings are REALLY frowned upon. Unless you’re lucky to hit the big time and make a lot of money, of course - then all is forgiven!!
But you can never satisfy them really - for example, I did the “right” thing all through school - was always top of the class, did more subjects than everyone else, learnt piano, ballet, painting, sculpture, horse-riding, singing…then got into a top university…and then tried several “proper” jobs in order to do the right thing…was miserable and unmotivated and frustrated…then I hit the big 3-0 and decided it was time I focused on making ME happy, as opposed to my mother…so I went back to my first love, writing. Now I’m a freelance writer working from home and really happy with my life - even though my mother is absolutely horrified and constantly laments the waste of my Oxford degree and top education and how I could be a top CEO in a big company or a doctor or lawyer and earning big money…instead of doing this creative nonsense and earning half of what I could potentially earn…
I try really hard to talk to her and try to make her see that there are other ways of being “successful” in life and that happiness and personal fulfillment is more important - but I don’t think I’m getting through.
It’s a shame - if more of those kids could have a similar sense of revelation and just break through the guilt-trip and ‘Duty’ pressure hanging over their hands - there wouldn’t be so many such suicides. But then I know it was easier for me as I grew up in a Westernised society which encourages independence and celebrates the individual - it’s much harder to have the courage to break free if you’re steeped in a society which embraces the same values your parents are espousing.
This is a great post, BigHoney. Very insightful. I’m glad you finally decided to do what makes YOU happy. However, I have to say that I think there are a lot of people who become unhappy doctors and such because they simply cannot function independantly, the way you do now.
They need the pressure from the family because, indeed they don’t value independant thought and don’t do a lot of thinking for themselves. Their obligations to the family are what frame and give meaning to their entire lives. I did not understand this before, and I still don’t like to accept it sometimes, but what you have done with your life is fairly extrordinary.
And you do NOT look thirty!