Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Things my parents taught me

Maybe because I'm getting older, and my parents are getting older, and it's closer to me leaving for another indefinite period of time, that I appreciate them now more than ever. As the distance between my teenage 'growing-pains' years and adulthood grows, things have become clearer. The blur of my childhood has had its focus sharpened on the infinite ways I owe my parents my life, literally and figuratively, for all the things they've taught me.

1. You can be anything you want to be

This, perhaps, is what every child of our generation was taught. It's particularly true for us children of migrants whose parents have left language and culture and land behind with the casual air of those that are accustomed to struggle. We are now able to do what they were not - and don't we forget it! Yes, dad, I know, *nodding* you walked 10 kilometres to go to school.. in the rain... without shoes.. on an empty stomach. We know. Instead, we can bludge our way through highschool, we can take up arts degrees and gap years and galavant across the globe in search of no more noble a cause than ourselves. But they let us, and they tell us - you can be anything you want to be. Be it a bum or a business man.

2. Live within your means, money is only a means to an end

Don't spend more than you earn. Don't buy crap. Don't spend your life chasing cars, the rich, fast, leather two-seater kind that are meant only for those in advertisements for what they tell you is success.  Don't gamble, don't develop a drug addiction. Money comes and money goes. You can't eat it, you can't drink it and you certainly can't grow it on trees. Know this, accept this.

Back when I was shorter than I am now in a way that was proportional to my age, I remember how we lived before we'd 'made it,' so to speak. We were living in a small rented house with bunk beds, tree houses, chickens and goats running around in the backyard like the fresh-from-the-philippines filipinos we were. We'd run through sprinklers in the summer because we didn't have a pool. We had a small car and too many children so sometimes me and my brothers would have to lie down in the boot of the toyota or have my little sister crouch in the front passenger seat so the police wouldn't see, like a magical circus car full of midget clowns. The money we didn't have meant little then, and the money we have now doesn't mean all that much today. It can buy you holidays and cars and houses but it doesn't change the quality of your memories or the volume of nostalgia you'll feel years later for a life lived well.

3. What love actually is

It's nothing to do with big romantic gestures, of running to airports to catch the love of your life before they leave on the wrong plane before some over-dramatic, articulate speech detailing all the reasons they should stay or all the ways you know some stupid mannerism they have that makes them somehow different from every other person of that sex you've ever met. Love is my dad making dinner for my mum before she gets home, waiting to eat with her even if we've all already eaten because she doesn't like to eat alone. It's her always forgiving him for his sarcastic jokes about her taking too long to get ready all the time - and that he always forgives her for taking too long to get ready all the time. It's folded laundry and tea made without asking and a thousand daily tasks that whisper always and steadily, I am here for you.

The more I am away from my family and the more I come back I realise this all. That I am the way I am because of who they are. Because of everything they've taught me. The lessons that never end, the parts of your parents lives before you were born that you learn only later, when you're old enough to understand what it all means. 


  1. You grow up thinking certain things are a given until the moment you realise you lucked into it the whole time. The road was paved before you.

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