Reading your stories and reflecting on my own confirms my belief that one day, what our parents are doing to us will be widely accepted as criminal and severe child abuse that leads to a very terminal illness- depression. And it’ll stop. But, I’m afraid it’ll only come to a stop when our generation are the parents.
Our parents’ generation is too unhappy from their own childhood, too angry from the second rate citizen treatment given to poor immigrants with broken English (but immense pride), too hardened from memories of postwar poverty and misery that their minds are too insulated from ours and stop them from even considering that maybe they need to change, that loving us means considering the context of our time and our lives.
They can’t accept that there is more than one correct way to get from point A to point B or that there are so many points other than points A and B. Their lives were too binary for them to understand that we live in a truecolor, fast paced world with a million nuances and choices.
They claim they push me because they know I can do better. That there is always room for improvement. It took me a very long time to realize that by accepting their belief that I must always try to grow into that room for improvement, I’m essentially chasing infinity in a task that will never be complete because it can’t ever be completed. Which took me to the conclusion that I was beating myself up and getting depressed to try to please people who mathematically can’t ever be happy. From that point of view, it seemed stupid to make myself deeply unhappy for people who’d be miserable no matter what I did and how well I did it.
I have many siblings. My older siblings and I have felt the burn of trying to complete the impossible task of becoming the universe, forever expanding. We decided it is wrong. So, we’ve become a source of understanding and support for our younger siblings. They know our loving them doesn’t depend on their grades or their weight. They know that arguing with us will not end in an ultimatum that will break their hearts. They know we won’t hurt them by rubbing their faces into their mediocrity should they be average students because, dammit, the definition of average demands that there be quite a few of us who fit that category. I tell them that, yes, they can do and have anything they work hard enough to get, but that that doesn’t mean that they should push themselves mercilessly until their breaking point. Because it’s a mathematical certainty that they will hit their breaking point before they please our parents. Just stop, my darling little sister, sweet little brother- take a deep breath, smell the roses, take in the blue sky, and collapse into my hug and cry into my shoulder and I’ll try my best to undo the pain of disappointment and feeling of worthlessness that have been troubling you for too long.
And as I see my effort helping them hurt a little less a little bit at a time, I swear to myself that I will do more in the future, that my children, nieces, and nephews will not- not for ONE SECOND- feel the pain that I couldn’t get rid of, the desperation that my friends died of, the unforgiving thirst that sucked many of our generation dry.
Things will change, but they will only change with us, and these narratives will help.