I grew up with a traditional Chinese upbringing. My family survived many atrocities from the Communist Revolution and eventually immigrated to Canada. A survival mentality was passed on through the lineage and my parents worked ferociously to keep afloat. We started off with a grocery store in Chinatown and some of my best childhood memories was hanging out at the shop, talking to strangers, playing with stray cats and creating make-believe adventures with my older sisters.
My parents didn’t marry for love – the butterflies and molly-high rush of new lust that is expected in this generations’ relationship ideal, well, it just wasn’t practical. My parents had to fight tooth and nail to put a roof over our heads and to provide us with an education. It was not love that kept my parents together, it was a sense of duty. It was commitment to something greater than themselves.
Growing up, I watched my mother endure countless hardships and turbulence with my father. I could never understand why she stayed. I silently judged her for being weak and vowed to never turn out like her. But regardless of how bad it was at home, she persevered. She sacrificed her own happiness, her chance of feeling ‘in love’ – for the love for her children.
I look back now and realize that my mother was not weak, in fact, quite the opposite. She had (and still has) a strength and resilience that is admirable. To sacrifice, to persevere, to put your own needs aside for something greater (in her case, her children) – that is true courage. It is this very courage that I find missing in many people of this generation – children who grew up without really having to work for anything, but wanting everything. They want the epic love story without doing the self-work, they want the ballin’ lifestyle without the years and years of necessary hustle, they want the social status and respect without truly earning a seat at the table – they want it all and willing to sacrifice nothing.
I don’t think this is a millennial thing – I think it’s a perspective thing. It’s a disillusionment of our generation who sees on social media only the highlight reels of people’s love stories and overnight successes. It’s a habit of needing instant gratification that many of us have subconsciously subscribed to, driving unrealistic expectations to get what we want ASAP. Our solution to our discomfort is to abort and find another option. Feeling bored at work? Quit. Relationship going through a rough patch? Swipe right. Don’t want confrontation? Ghost. Feelings of loneliness catching up? Disassociate through the use of alcohol or drugs.
To this day, my mother takes care of my father. I don’t necessarily agree with her choice, but I must say, I respect it. In no way am I advocating people stay in toxic relationships, but I have compassion for the limited choices she had during that time. I grew up thinking I wanted to not be like my mom, but now, I think the opposite. I can only hope that I possess even half the strength, resilience and courage that she has. I can only hope that when I’m feeling entitled that I remember that everything is earned. I hope that when I feel impatient I remember that great things take time and steady perseverance. I hope that when I want to quit, I remember to think and act with the big picture in mind, and not react with a frantic panic to numb the discomfort of the moment. I can only hope that when the going gets tough, that I don’t throw in the towel until I know I’ve tried with every thing I’ve got.
For those of you reading this, I encourage you to take a look at what you’re committed to and ask yourself what you’re willing to sacrifice to get it. And it can’t be everything or you’ll set yourself up for failure. Pick the one or two areas you want to focus on, and work on doing things every single day that get you on that path. Commit to a career, commit to a relationship, commit to healing, commit to learning something new – just make the choice to commit to something greater than your feelings du jour. Because along the journey, you will feel like quitting, you will feel disenfranchised, you will feel uncomfortable, you will feel uncertain, and you will feel all the shitty things that come along with creating excellence. And it’s your commitment that will act as your guiding star when your emotions try to get the best of you.
Keep in mind that not everything you commit to will turn out to be what you expected, because…life. You can put your all in building a business only to not see it work out the way you wanted, you can put your all into a relationship only to end in a breakup, you can try your hardest and not see the fruits of your labour. That ‘thing’ may not turn out as expected, and that ‘thing’ just might be a bridge to something else. But the point is you gave something your all, and that builds character. That intention and commitment is what allows you to look back in life knowing you did everything within your power to create something.
Here’s to the journey…