The ugly side of me is that I am emotionally unstable. I grew up knowing I was different. I needed Tender Loving Care. I needed someone to tell me that I’ve done great or that I’ve already tried my hardest for my results. I needed hugs and kisses. I needed family heart to heart talks or discussion times. I needed talking about how great school was over the dinner table. But all I got was canes, and whips and chainsaws. Rewards were only if my results were good enough. It wasn’t good enough until I tried my best. But a B wasn’t good enough because “if you really tried and didn’t lose focus, the B would’ve been an A by now”.
I’d like to think that my life is complicated and that I have it all under control. It IS complicated, but I do not have it under control all the time.
Me on the left and my older brother on the right.
I am the second (and I thought I was the youngest then) child in my family and being second means I will be second to the Golden Child of the family. I remember vividly, when I was in kinders, we had a Chinese spelling test. My older brother had already learnt it and I totally forgot about it, even though we were in the same class. That was the first Chinese spelling test that I have failed. I remember the betrayal I felt when my brother had studied and didn’t remind me about the test. But from that day on, I made it clear that I wasn’t going to forget again.
I think that incident flamed my determination to be good at everything. I was going to be more mature, more responsible, quicker in actions and brilliant in studies. I wanted it all. And I would like to think I did it. I feel that I am more mature, more responsible and quicker in actions than my brother is. When we were young, my mother assign some chores to my brother and he would always say “wait ah…” and you’d had to remind him again and again. But I was different. I did things immediately. The second reason why I was quicker in action was because I knew I couldn’t get away with “wait ah…” like my brother could. I would be caned and I couldn’t handle emotional turmoil as I said, I was emotionally stable already. So I did things the moment I was told to do it. He is the first son of the family, I was only the second daughter. As a child, I understood that clearly. And to be better, I tried at everything I did.
Being the second born was in a way a hidden blessing. Everything went well for me because I tried, but some things were still not right. I remember being very keen to get my driver’s license the moment I was of age. Who wouldn’t? My older brother certainly didn’t bother. But I was keen and quickly booked an instructor with Janice, my long term best friend. Having a driver’s license is my first step to real adulthood, and boy was I excited. But everything backfired. My mother screamed at me in horror and my dad had that pissed expression; I left out something in the process – the need to inform them that I was going to get my driver’s license.
I admit that was a big mistake – forgetting to inform my parents of my plan. But I still felt more accomplished. The second daughter getting her driver’s license before the first son. I’m secretly still proud of that.
I grew up wanting to get away from all the terms and conditions; from being the second daughter that wasn’t as highly “priced” as the first son. I wanted to be better in almost every way. But again, all my doings backfired.
As the clock ticked, I slowly realise that I was setting myself up for a future that I did not foresee. I was suddenly the one doing the laundry at home, doing the cooking, vacuuming, drying the clothes, putting them away, and all that jazz. Why? Because I was quicker in action and that I actually care about cleanliness. And my older brother would sit there in front of his computer. I have nothing against that. I am happy to do the laundry because I DO NOT ruin my own clothes. I make sure that when it says ‘dry cleaning only’, I take it to the dry cleaners. I do not wait until the sink is full of dishes. I do not wait until I was starving to death to cook.
Then it is my responsibility to make sure the bills are being paid on time; my responsibility to quarterly manage the other apartment that my parents have; my responsibility to arrange for enrolment letters for me and my brother, even though we both have two days a week off from work and I still found time to do it for us both; my responsibility to put the bikes away (that’s fair because I didn’t have work then); my responsibility, or rather, my boyfriend’s responsibility to drive the car.
And it is going to my, and solely my, responsibility to raise my two younger brothers, should the need arise.
It was never going to be a shared responsibility. A responsibility that I do not want. So I sit here contemplating about my past and I realise that it’s not about being the better one anymore. It’s all about the second daughter doing all the family bidding and the first son getting it all on the silver platter. How have I not seen this before? It’s all over in the Chinese movies. Right from the start, I fell for the trap thinking that second daughters need to try a lot harder.