Spending the majority of my time and energy living up to my parents’ expectations, my childhood was spent questioning whether I should gratify my parents’ values or my own. This all started when I asked my parents why they decided to have three children. Their answer: “We wanted to have a son and daughter.”
Pondering their response, I concluded that my older sister and younger brother fulfilled their wishes. My sister assumed the role of the oldest sibling and my parents’ personal translator. She was responsible for taking care of me and my brother and will soon become my parents’ financial supporter. My brother is the youngest sibling and is the missing piece to my parents’ ideal family. I, on the other hand, was unnecessary, roleless, and a financial burden. I believed I was their failed attempt to have a son.
This epiphany led me to feel the need to prove my worth. I would strive to be academically successful, and to my parents, who deeply valued it, that meant winning awards and earning outstanding grades. I participated in various academic competitions in subjects such as math and social studies, and confined myself to academic classes that were not fun, in my opinion. This practice became the norm for me, and my parents expected no less.
The toxic idea I internalized of having to prove my self-worth through academics contradicted my passion for the visual arts. As I increased my academic workload over the years, I spent less time on hobbies I enjoyed which caused me to feel stuck and hopeless. I became ill-tempered and frustrated; and the knowledge and experiences I valued that school provided for me lost their importance. This led to my first burnout and depressive episode, which was further fueled by the guilt that other people did not have the same opportunities I have.
My stress and sorrow accumulated to a point where my family and I could not tolerate the negativity that plagued me. I often lashed out on my parents when I was stressed and magnified every minor inconvenience. I woke up unwilling to go to school, and suicidal thoughts would incessantly play in my mind throughout the day. These thoughts made me feel even worse when I considered the privileges I was born with.
My parents confronted this about me, telling me that I wasn’t like this in the past. They asked me for the reason why I changed, but being inexperienced in sharing my feelings and vulnerability, I refused to tell them about the baggage I carried. I thought doing so would make me look weak.
Instead, I decided to get out of this dip in my life myself by coming to terms with both my parents and my own interests. Starting my junior year, I adopted extracurriculars and classes that I use as outlets for my creativity and decided to take visual arts classes alongside my usual academic courses. Although I still feel overwhelmed by the workload, I now feel less stress and enjoy my classes more compared to previous school years.
My parents asked me again this year about my change in character and we spent two hours opening our hearts to each other for the first time.