“You’re almost thirty now, and what do you have to show for it?” is a favourite line of hers. It’s a great line, used by many generations of Chinese parents to guilt their children for their lack of accomplishments. How dare you, the descendant of a first generation immigrant, not achieve the same level of greatness as the likes of Elon Musk. Such wasted potential, it surely arose from your lack of discipline, not inherited mediocrity.
It started when I was 25, and as each year passed it became more desperate, more anxiety inducing. It dawned on me a long time ago that nothing would ever be enough. I turned 30 a few weeks ago. You know you’re the favourite child when both your parents forget your 30th birthday. They remembered the next day, and I received a heartwarming screenshot of a payment receipt with the reference “Happy Birthday” on it. To be honest I hadn’t given it any thought on the day until someone asked me about them. An innocent question, an awkward moment of realisation. I tried to explain why this was normal, when in reality nothing about my relationship with them has ever quite fit the definition of normal.
I realised in that moment that I wasn’t hurt anymore, which hurt in its own way. I have no expectations of them, and yet that disappoints me too. I wish I could say with confidence that I would never repeat her mistakes but some days I have felt such rage that I feel I understand her better than I ever wanted to. I’ve gone from craving children to fearing the damage I could inflict upon them. It would be so terribly unfair to pass on these burdens. I can never really be sure if I am who I am because of them, or in spite of them.