I always know when my parents want to have a serious talk with me.
It was the eighties when the global financial crisis took place. I was only 9 years old when my mother sat all three of us down and said that we were going through a really difficult time in the family that for a long while we would need to be extremely frugal to tide us over. Turned out that we took more than 10 years to get through that “dark ages of finance” as I called it, but there was also the bright side of things because we got closer as a family. From being constantly fighting with my older brother for the control over the TV channel or quarrelling with my older sister whom I feared because of her two huge, fierce eyes, we became strong, affectionate siblings who shared great camaraderie for life.
When I was 15 years old and on Valentine’s Day I received two stalks of red roses from some boys, my mother gave me a long talk about dating too young. I was completely flabbergasted. I wasn’t even dating these boys. They were guy friends from a nearby boys school whom I got to know from riding on the same school bus who gave me flowers. I was not even remotely interested in them romantically. To me, they were just friends. Period. In any case, mama said that I was not supposed to hold hands with or kiss a boy at just 15 years old. So I followed her advice and only kissed my boyfriend at 17 years old. But I also married him eight years later.
What happened was last month we had a little tea session again at their living room. Now when you love someone you feel them all the time! I sensed that they wanted to have one of these talks again before I had even parked my car in front of their house. Something serious…. Hmm… Is it about the way I bring up my kids, or how unwise I plan financially (in fact I have no planning at all!) or something even more serious?!
So my mama did the whole Chinese tea ritual the moment I stepped into the house. She sat me down then brought out her little Chinese teapot, dropped one Yunnan Pu-erh tea cube into the pot, poured some hot boiling water over them and started brewing the tea while pouring hot water over all the tea cups. When the tea was ready, she poured the tea into five tea cups, called papa to join us and in her utmost subtlety, expressed that she felt sorry that I was “stuck in a rut”. I almost choked on my tea!
I am not successful by any measure but I am so NOT stuck in a rut. I mean, yes I am not a CEO, an engineer, an astronaut or a pharmacist and yes I am not rich either, but I have built a life I am contented with that are filled with many blessings that make me, well… happy. Yes, contentment. Is that why mama thinks I live a dull life?
“Love, I am just talking about your career. Now you know my old classmate Uncle X? One of his two sons is a Doctor and the other son is an Actuarist. Aunty Y, my ex-colleague? Her eldest son is an engineer, the second daughter is an accountant and the third son is a Pharmacist. Your brother has his own small business and your sister is an accountant, but you…”
I was crushed. There was such long awkward pause there that I had to fill in the blank for her, “I am creative, compassionate, exceedingly happy and funny?” She rolled her eyes and said, “Well, if you are not a professional, at least you must own the feeling of success!”
If you think my mama put me down, you are wrong. She is the epitome of the most faithful mom who thinks you are the best of them all even when you are the sort who walks into a room with a light bulb strapped to your head and nobody even noticed you. She just has an issue with me that I am still working for others, at THIS age. Papa confirmed my suspicion when he said, “You know, my own papa has always told me to start my own business no matter how small because the operative word here is Freedom. And I hold true to that, that no matter how challenging it was back then, I served no other masters but myself. I have freedom!”
I looked at both of them and chuckled, “Oh, that whole being enterprising thing, huh? But I don’t know what I want to sell, papa.” Own a restaurant? Negative. I can’t even fry char kuey teow or make roti canai. Run a beauty centre? I am too scared to squeeze someone else’s zits and especially if he has like a hundreds of them on just his forehead. Consulting business? Obviously I am the one who needs consultation on how to run a business the most.
“So should I just quit my job tomorrow, pa?” I continued, trying not to sound defensive.
“I mean, I have no idea what business I should run though.” “No, no, not now, but all we want to say to you is we think you should put that in your 10 years goal or something. I mean, just observe some of the local businesses and see if you might find something you could do successfully. We are Chinese. Trading has to be in our blood.”
I sipped my Pu-erh, not sure if I had the same blood or DNA, for that matter. But I will go think of something that will see me work on my own terms say 5 to 10 years from now, like my papa said. Good, all is well. Finally I have a 10-year goal to boast. Even this year end’s employee appraisal starts to sound exciting already because I don’t have to copy and paste the same standard answer year on year. Why, I can already imagine the newspaper headline that reads The next Entrepreneur of the year — Seven2SevenMom, and the subhead goes, the most unassuming, talented CEO of the Happiness Empire. OK I over-paint my own road to success but you get the point.
Truly not a bad thing to get some nuggets of wisdom from our parents, especially when it gives you a new perspective and comes served with a warm cup of Yunnan Pu-Erh and a beacon of hope. That brought to mind a song my mom used to sing to me:
When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me.
Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.
I don’t look at all like the pretty business woman in the photo nor had I make any Chinese tea, so this 2 came from:
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielygo/5370833937/”>Daniel Y. Go</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/76029035@N02/6829417439/”>Victor1558</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>