2. My First Heartbreak
Wow, only day 2 and we’re already jumping into the hard stuff, huh?
Most people associate heartbreak with romantic relationships, but I think being heartbroken can also come from someone close to you, like a best friend or a family member. I think for me, my first heartbreak was when I was 13. The repercussions of it still haunt me to this day.
People who know me now think that I’m stoic and introverted, but I was not always this way. When I was a kid I was actually a very outgoing child who’d literally chat up anyone and try to make friends with them. In grade school, I was one of those pupils that the teacher would always complain about for being a chatterbox.
That changed when I went to high school, as I was transferred to a new place where I knew no one. It would not have been a big deal if it weren’t for the language barrier – the new school I went to had a large population of Mandarin-speaking Chinese students, and me being a ‘banana’ (ie a Chinese that speaks English as a first language), I had a hard time communicating with others. It didn’t help that I had a school teacher who was a bully; she’d humiliate me in front of all the students with snide remarks such as “Those who don’t know their mother tongue should not be called a Chinese, since they don’t even know their own culture.” Or when I attempted to ask her that I needed to go to the toilet in Mandarin, she turned to the class and said in a sneering manner “Look, she’s attempting to speak Chinese! What’s your excuse?”
As a result, I was alienated by my peers, and I felt like an outcast throughout my time in high school. I developed a very rebellious, ‘tough’ persona, but it was mainly because I was attempting to protect myself. What helped was that I was actually good at my studies – imagine if I had bad grades AND was also unpopular – sounds like a high school character from a soap, no? In the show I’d fit right into the ‘loser’ table.
It was a very difficult time, and I blamed my parents for transferring me to the new school where I had no friends, and to make matters worse, they were your typical Asian parents and wouldn’t allow me to hangout with the friends I had left behind. I admit that I acted up because of it, but who wouldn’t when they’re a 13-year-old, hormone-filled teenager?
I told my mom about how miserable I was and how difficult it was for me to go to school because not only was the teacher humiliating me, I was also ostracised. And in the manner of a stereotypical Asian parent, who is unable to deal with anything related to emotions… my mother told me to ‘suck it up’ and ‘get through it’.
It was at that moment that I experienced my first heartbreak. I felt extremely betrayed: here I was, reaching out for help from a family member, someone who is supposed to know what to do and how to make me feel better, and I was told that it was basically my fault for being weak, and that I had to be stronger. No words of comfort, no ‘it’s okay, let’s wait til you feel better’, nothing. I think it was from that moment forth that I started to shut my feelings within, and it is also why I have a hard time opening up to, well, anyone at all.
This was, of course, not the only incident. Over the years, there have been many such instances. I’m not saying my parents do not love me – I’m merely saying they are ill-equipped to express their emotions or handle it in the proper way. My teenage and college years were a train wreck, and I think my behaviour partly stemmed from this sense of betrayal. I was good at keeping secrets from my parents, even when I got into trouble – because I knew even if it wasn’t my fault, I would get blamed for it. So I simply learned to deal with it.
Even as an adult today, I struggle with being vulnerable to anyone – there will always be a 13-year-old me whose trust was broken when I was so desperately reaching out for understanding, but was instead struck down. And while I can’t say that I will get better, I’m trying to get past that just a little bit more everyday. 🙂