Despite doing much better these days in Alberta, the words echoed to me almost daily since I was a child still remind me of my purpose:
“You must study and work harder and smarter than most, as you do not come from a privileged family with connections and money. Those who do so have capabilities beyond your imagination, as soon as they’re old enough, they are nurtured academically and socially to be cut-throat in their own and family ambitions on the career and social ladder. They will not hesitate to take away any opportunity you have, to go to and graduate from a prestigious university, so that you can get a high paying job and thus have a prosperous future.
My son, we do not know people, and we do not have money. Do not play games and watch TV in your spare time. Do not think about girls. Study and work hard, and exercise to enrich and sharpen your mind. Do not follow the academic and social fabric the local education systems use. Work and study much harder than them to stay above them all.
When life gets hard, do not put your head down- keep your head up. Do not get weak, or the enemy will take advantage of that. Remain positive and look forward to the future you are working hard to make for yourself. For each unit of blood and tears the competition uses in our battles, you must use two.”
Then the bitter quotes I used to echo back since I was old enough to talk still cloud my mind on a daily basis:
“Why is life not fair Mom?”
“Why are we not well off like those other Asian and Old Money families in Vancouver- who have a wealth of connections and financial resources to academically and socially nurture their kids through elite private schools and specialized tutors? Then they proceed to out-compete the rest of us in university, and then in the war towards elite graduate schools and the career ladders to become the likes of doctors, medical practitioners, investment bankers, analysts, and lawyers.”
“Why didn’t we have money like the other Asian and Old Money families to get into real estate in Vancouver?”
“Why don’t even have cars Mom? You keep saying we’re just poor students and should just focus on studying and forget about having one. Why must we be poor students/recent graduates who will not afford one for years to come?”
“Why must we just accept defeat and just accept that we weren’t born rich and with connections?”
“Why must we accept the reality that we’ll just be lucky to make $30K/year after $30K of student debt- and some of us be forced to take second, or even third second degree programs just in hopes of finding work?”
“Why must be significant career advancement opportunity be only a dream? Why it must be that only “lucky people” will see anything even close to $100K in their entire working careers, or even something like $70K- but in other places in Canada, the opportunities are much more? This is all in a place where the average home price is $937,500. Why must this be fate if you didn’t know a somebody, and your family had connections?”
“Why was I born unattractive Mom, so that I’d never have the social and networking opportunities of a good looking person?”
“Why must the employer and shareholder have overwhelming power in the labour market? Why must a lineup of hippies and those bred from Old Money and wealthy immigrant and foreigner money, be willing to do more for less, or just as something to do and don’t actually need the money, to bring down wages and job opportunities? Why must they ruin it for the rest of us who worked hard to get our money’s worth for a opportunistic future, and tell us we should be just grateful to be here?”