Saturday, August 27, 2011

On Normality And Living Quietly - And Why It Shouldn't Be Attempted At All

I'm sure its quite clear, from my purple (and blonde-streaked) hair and taste in music and clothes and my interests and my tendency to do things on an impulse, that I am not quite normal.

But only in that I'm a straight-A over-achieving asian business student.
With purple (and blonde-streaked) hair.
And not-normal tastes in music and clothes and interests.
Who's impulsive.

I'm not quite the stereotypical teenager who parties and drinks.
I'm not quite the rebelling teenager who has safety pins in their ears.
And I'm not quite the asian kid either.

The thing is, for the most part of my life, my dad has been trying to get me to conform to this idea of normality. Just yesterday, he came and told me that I shouldn't have dyed my hair blonde (funny he never noticed when it was purple).
"You should live quietly, don't stand out and be a target. Live peacefully and without drawing attention, don't dress strangely and just do what you are supposed to."

There's something so disturbingly wrong about that advice.
Not only is it just ludicrous, almost telling your child not to excel in any way - just to live quietly.
What does that even mean?

I'm hoping he doesn't mean a cute little quiet bambi-esque tottering fool of a stereotypical asian girl who posts a bajillion pictures of desserts and themselves on facebook, gets good grades, has a boringly unexciting part time job until they graduate from their degree as fast as possible (with no exchanges, honors or worthwhile experiences). After which they'll work at a bank or mid-sized accounting firm until they find a nice asian boy who will marry her and look after her while she stays home and has children and looks after the children.

However, I have irrefutable proof that at the very least, he means a docile asian girl who gets good grades and etc etc etc.

I don't really know what the best way to respond to this is.
I mean, there are so many glaringly obvious stupid things in what he wants.
And I'll leave docile to the end.
  • Get good grades
  • I get good grades because I have pride in my actions and myself as a person, not because it's something that I should do. If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it well - no half measures. You should get good grades because you want them, not because it's something you ought to do. Similarly, you should do things because you want to, not because you ought to.

  • Have a boringly unexciting part time job
  • I do have a part-time job. I work in a mid-high end jewellery shop on the main street next to Louis Vuitton and Gucci. That is not a boringly unexciting part time job. When I was 18 or so, he started nagging me to get a job. He suggested McDonalds and Foodtown, even local takeaways. And when I refused, he told me I was stubborn and that I should take any opportunities I had. Two weeks or so later, I broke a chain and ended up with this job. I made my own opportunities. Don't settle. Make your own opportunities.

  • Graduate from a degree as fast as possible (with no exchanges, honors or worthwhile experiences)
  • He doesn't know this, but I'm doing a conjoint degree with four majors. I'm hopefully going on a one-month exchange to Tokyo University in summer, and after that, a one year exchange to Keio University. And even with all of this, I will graduate at the same time as my peers because I take 5 papers a semester and I do summer school. I have made new friends and I have made old friends again. I have had revelations, admirations, epiphanies (and epiphones!) and I have worked my ass off for all of it. Do as much as you can.

  • Work at a bank or mid-sized accounting firm:
  • Fuck it. Every time I hear a person say that they've worked the same job for more than 4 years, some part of me shudders with horror. They don't love it. They spend their lives doing it. And much more often than not, it's for the benefit of someone else - a corporation, a boss, a manager. I want to work for myself - not in a self-owned business way, but in a "fulfilling my dreams" kind of way. What if we never have another chance at this? What if this one life is all you have? I refuse to spend it in any way other than exactly how I want.

  • Find a nice asian boy 
  • How about find someone who is engaging and honest? Someone whos' company makes you happy and whos' jokes makes you smile? He doesn't have to be cookie-cutter nice. I don't care if he has tattoos or long hair or is a total dead-beat artist on the street - as long as he is a genuinely decent person who has a nice personality, and tries to look after you, that's more than enough. And no, I don't care if he is asian. And nor should you.

  • Get married and be looked after, stay home, have children and look after them.
  • This is just stupid, and sadly not in the least exaggerated. What century do you live in? I don't mind getting married, or being looked after - but come on. Marriage is not the only thing that girls aim for. When we get married, it doesn't mean that we are suddenly completely content with everything. Marriage changes nothing in terms of aspirations - at least for me. And even if I had children, I will have insatiable goals my entire life. 

And finally, being docile, being unexceptional, living quietly.

I'm afraid the greatest counter-argument to this is possibly an ad-hominem. I do not want to be unexceptional because you are unexceptional. You have nothing to live for and you pass your days in quiet acceptance that somewhere along the way, your dreams collapsed like a house of cards and it's too late to rebuild it all again.

But I like standing out. I like being myself. I like it when my middle-aged japanese teacher (who comes from a country where the unspoken motto is "the nail that sticks up will get hammered down") tells me that she likes my hair and asks if I do it myself.

I am not ashamed of myself. I am not afraid to stand out. If anyone truly judges me for what I look like or how I dress, then they are not worth  meeting - and yet, if we are given the chance to meet. I am sure that I can change their opinion of me. I have nothing to hide. I am unashamedly myself, and it is unbelievably sad if you cannot say the same.

Where are your dreams? Where are your ambitions?
I will not give up on what I believe in. And I will never stop trying, never stop encouraging everyone around me to try, please try, to be exactly who you want to be.

And if, by some chance, my purple hair and eccentric tastes can encourage others to live LOUDLY and without any HESITATION, then that is worth more to me than any approval you could ever give me.

So no, I will not dye my hair black.
I will not live quietly.
I will stand out and be a target.
I will not live peacefully.
I will draw attention.
I will dress however the hell I want.
And I will do whatever the fuck I want - whether I am supposed to or not.

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