For some families, where their offspring stand compared to others means a lot, if not, the world to them. They want their kids to be successful, and want others to wish their kids were as good as theirs. We spent more than a decade in our young ages undergoing first-hand teachings of mathematics and other subjects by our parents (or for those families who have money, by tutors and other learning centres), and being mentally and emotionally disciplined and bred to be the perfect competitor in university and then the real world of career development. Then in the post-education world of career social ladder climbing, we pursue our ambitions to make it to the top- to be the next poster child for our families and other loved ones to show to their and our social circles, and to make them proud.
When I was a child, my mother would write us math problems on paper, and buy us piles of books to read. We were told it was to prepare us for the battles we’d endure in university, as there was a vicious crowd out there to outcompete us, and if we failed to make it in, and then to make it through, we would have no future. We were fed well, and told to take care of our health to keep our mental and physical capacities high for such battles. Video games and other forms of electronic entertainment were permitted in moderation; dating in young age was forbidden (though I did at the time anyways, every so often), as we were told these were distractions to our ultimate goal- our education, our battle, our future.
In university, Mother would drive me to campus before I had my license (as I was an early graduate) at 6AM some days just to get some extra studying in before classes or exams started, then come by at night around 9-10PM to drive me home. She’d wake up even earlier just to pack me food for the day to kept me well fed throughout. At that stage, they tell you getting into university is only part of the battle, as now the most difficult part is to get through it, and if you let your feet slip, the person beside you will outcompete you, make you fail, then you will get kicked out and lose your future. As our business faculty manager said to us when we first arrived:
Only 1/10 of you will make it in, and then even less of you will make it through. Look at the person beside you, and that is your competition.
When I needed notebooks, Mother was crafty and would hand-make notebooks for writing my notes in.
During those years, I often went to the campus at 6-7AM to get some studying in before classes began. Between classes, I only ate and studied. Then, I got home at 9-10PM. Unfortunately my competitive edge gradually diminished throughout my university years, unable to compete with the well-educated and bred academics from wealthy or otherwise privileged families. I never failed, but I only performed average, and insufficiently enough for any career requiring some form of graduate school. I was never going to be in the top percentile to even just catch the eye of top Fortune 500 firms to be recruited into the likes of consulting or investment banking. For those who failed, they usually ended up jobless, or in unrelated menial jobs like retail, service, and low end office jobs unrelated to their field of study, lucky to make $30,000-40,000/year. Some even worked for free to gain experience in hopes after a year or two, or more, to land their first studies-related position. The scenario was like how many kids played hockey during their youth, but only the rare few ever got drafted into the NHL.
The difference however, was that the kids were usually happy doing something they loved. I hated the poor student lifestyle (my family was not wealthy), hated the environment of UBC, the leftist mentality of BC (where if you had ambitions related to status or the like, even just for self-improvement and discovery, you were to sin), and the job market there was poor, where even the acquisition of a job at Starbucks serving coffee was competitive. Vancouver’s economic prospects also held little opportunity, and with ongoing family issues and rising debts, I decided to pack my bags and leave for Alberta. And, I have been here ever since.
Overtime I discovered the economic potential of Alberta, and vowed to make a large sum of money and come back home. My family disowned me for some time when eventually I made the decision to permanently stay for better economic prospects, get into a trade (which you required to make your way up in Alberta) and not get into more student debt for lacklustre job prospects. I was shunned for breaking the old Chinese tradition of everyone must having an university education and office job. I was viewed as just a “dumb tradesperson”, as it was a stereotype in white collar circles that tradespeople were people who never studied and did well enough in school for university-educated careers. It was almost an entire year before Mother and I spoke again like family.
At first I made a goal to obtain a Porsche, property, and complete my education by the time I was 23- to arrive back in BC in glory- self-made, and accomplished partway, on my way to bigger and better things. For a while, I did not even want to visit BC without them, in fear of looking like a failure unable to defend his word. Almost 4 years (I am 22 now), that has never happened, though I’ve acquired the rough equal of total 4 years of education and a property, and am getting closer.