One Of The Geeks (and rant to self)

Cornell students really study. The libraries are packed everyday. Even Sundays. At night! And it’s not just because it’s prelim (= midterm in UT lingo) season. And thing is, the libraries have been this way since the very first week of term!

Today I joined the ranks of library pigeons here at Cornell. That is, I parked my Torontonian butt down in a little nook amidst the Cornellian engineering students while Zibin was at class. One thing I must say: the engineering library in Cornell is super conducive for studying. People actually work! Vast contrast to the UT engineering library as I remembered it. Even the engineers didn’t study in it! (Rather, they throw paper planes at the ceiling :P)

For an hour during the day, Zibin was also studying at the library with me. It’s been years since we’ve studied together at the library, and this time around it’s very different. I had no trouble concentrating *laughs*.

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All things considered, Zibin and I are both taking things easy when it comes to academic strife. Is that good or bad? Ha ha, well… I think it’s good in so far as we’re putting in effort to do a good job. It makes a psychological world of a difference though, when we’re not compulsively studying for an external reason… whether it is to prove ourselves or to achieve some imagined practical goal.

Academic excellence and ‘success in life’. Think again. What’s your definition of success? What do you need? Do you find yourself often in the midst of pursuing something, blinded by panic and stressed by the doubt that you’re not quite ‘making it’? You may be surprised at how many people feel that way… regardless of how well they’re doing.

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Is it a dog-eat-dog world? Or is the world a big enough place for you to find your niche and discover your own definition of success in life? Are you a slave to money, basing major life choices on material well-being? Have you ever considered that maybe if you kept thinking that you need to feed your stomach first, that your stomach may never be satisfied and that in the meantime your soul will starve? And isn’t it interesting how it’s always people who aren’t ruled by the needs of their pocketbook that seem to have greater satisfaction in life even when they have less?

Why do we prize accomplishments so much for their own sakes? If we gain the whole world and lose our soul, we are nothing. What are we in such a frenzy for? Why do we get so obsessed over such unimportant things… other people’s opinions of us, our looks, our possessions, and a million and one things that we can do without?

Why is it that we always feel the need to be justified? Why are we so wilfully blind to our own failings while so eager to point out others’?

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Musings on Parental Love

The unexamined life is not worth living. What have we left unexamined? Isn’t it painfully funny how each generation revisits the previous generations mistakes upon the next? What makes us think that we have the definitive answer as to how people should learn to live just because we’ve experienced life a certain way? I’ve often been amazed at that kind of parental arrogance.

In the first place, we all have issues… different issues due to different experiences. Why are we so eager to have our children develop the same issues we have? Perhaps we’re blind to our issues. That aside, what makes us think that our kids’ personalities and lives would be best formed by what we went through ourselves? Don’t we know that their world will be significantly different from ours in many ways? Hmmm…

Zibin and I actually discussed this at length on the drive over to Ithaca. And I know it’s much easier said than done… learning what it means to let my future children live their own lives, make their own choices… even ones I have trouble agreeing with. Bah. Zibin cautioned me that as parents we won’t be able to help feeling betrayed and hurt when our kids’ lives start revolving around more than us.

He said, “One day they may listen to their teacher rather than us. Their friends will become the center of their lives for a while…they will make choices we do not agree with…it will hurt, but if we love them more than we love ourselves, we will be able to get over our feelings and give them the space they need to grow.” It’s ironic, cos I went through all that while growing up myself… more than anyone I understand how important all that was in my own journey of self-discovery. Yet, I KNOW it won’t be easy for me to deal with when it’s my turn as the mother.

Wanting once told me that she thinks that when a parent feels wronged or taken for granted by his/her child and berates the child for it, that parent has placed his/her own needs above the love for the child (actually that was her reaction to my wonderment that my mother never berated me for hurting her and taking her for granted, which I know too well I do). I know two other wise people who have told me something similar. And yet, they all concede that most parents often still love themselves more than they love their children though they may not be aware of it. So often, what parents claim to do ‘for the child’s own good’ may be more a self-deception than anything. But what’s sad is that when we as parents self-deceive, we often end up enmeshing our children in our confusion as well.

Scary? Not quite as scary as the thought that I could well become such a parent… I am someone so often blind by how driven I am by my own needs that I could very well hurt the very people I try to love most. Really laying my life down for others is quite something else! Well, I’m learning… I’m trying! *hopeful smile*

11 Comments

  1. Self-awareness and the desire to overcome our blindspots and weaknesses are the first steps toward being a better person… Take heart, and let’s us both keep this up.

  2. Hmmm…felt compelled to comment on this. Going to propose a different way of viewing parental love. Maybe if parents put in more effort to love each other, they won’t over-focus their energies and affection on their kids…and risk enmeshing the latter. At least that’s my view lor…made ZW promise to love me more than the kids!!!

  3. Zhen, u noe something? I agree with you! So many children get enmeshed in problematic relationships with their parents precisely because the parents have troubled relationships themselves! ha ha…

    A priest who frequently counsels troubled families did tell me once that parents in unhappy marriages often refocus their energies too much on children… making them (especially the mothers) over-protective and over-possessive of the kids among other things.

    My mom also often tells me that the most powerful way a parent can love a child is to love the other parent! It may sound counter-intuitive at first, but really, to put your spouse first really gives your children even more. When daddy and mummy are happy, they both are better able to love the kids in the healthiest ways! :)

  4. Quick! Have your child first! :) Then your book will be more credible haha.. :)

    But I do agree, that we must love our partners first. Because the child was born out of love for your partner. Many people forget that. :)

  5. Ha ha ha… hey, I’m happy anytime to have more friends’ babies to play with! :P

    Zhen, I don’t feel qualified to write such a book though I have many reflections on it. If there’s such a day that I am ready to write on the subject, I’ll let you know. *grin*

    To further add to this thread, I think we all need bear in mind that all relationships, be it with spouse or children, still bears upon our ‘relationship’ with our selves. For our own insecurities will bear upon our relationships with our spouses, which will have a domino effect on our kids… n’est-ce pas?

  6. Suggested the book cos I thought you’ve really been in a reflective mood. Plus we can tap on our combined knowledge and experience…realised there are many laypeople out there who have no clue about parenting and child development. And sometimes, you’ll be suprised at how much they benefit from tips from books, etc.

  7. Hee hee… Yinwei, Jap and French together? Manifique! :P

    Zhen, it’s a great idea actually. To be honest, I’ve had thoughts of eventually trying to publish something from all these reflections that I’ve been writing. But not just yet, both because of time, but also cos I think more life experience will give me even deeper insights.

    We could definitely combine our knowledge and experience: psychology, ed-psych, philo, philo of ed, teaching practice… tt’s pretty cool already. I’d say let’s wait till we both have had some parenting experience (and marriage too for me), then we’d have even more to base our writing on. Also would make the book more credible to people I bet.

    Of course we could always start working on it first! I mean, some books take years from ‘birth’ to publication. And we could try and find a novel angle to approach it.

    Ooh, we might even want to entertain the idea of making it an edited book of sorts so we can have contributions… like maybe we can ask Mama Yinwei to write a chapter! *grin* Just brainstorming… but it’s a cool idea!

  8. Hmm…

    I think books are good. But I also met people who believe everything books say, and when things turn out contrary for them, they begin to doubt themselves. People must remember that sometimes you have to take what you read with a pinch of salt, and regard your life with a little humour :)

    I would love to write a book on premature babies for parents. :)

    Oh actually, have you read the Fat Ladies Club? They have different ‘sequels’. One of them talks about their different experiences as a mother, each one writes a few chapters :) The book on this (motherhood), was a little sad for them, cos one of their friends (who wrote the other books together) passed away.

    You could start writing now about how you WANT your marriage or motherhood to be, how you envision it to be, right now :) You could say how you will never do this or never do that etc. And then years later, you could write the last few chapters, on how you want to hit yourself for being so arrogant haha. :) I know I could write HEAPS on this!! :) Before I was a mother, I would never do this… and how now that I am, I would secretly think to myself when I hear people say the same thing, “wait till it’s your turn”.. haha… evil right :) But I thought this would be cool, cos you can ‘help’ people who read.. most people who read such books are clueless, and they think they are doing everything wrong, because everything ‘other books’ claim, it doesn’t happen to them! :)

    Heh.. :)

  9. *smile* I like what you said, “People must remember that sometimes you have to take what you read with a pinch of salt, and regard your life with a little humour.”

    Learning to read critically takes experience and sometimes painful learning too. I think it’s very hard to ‘teach’ people to read critically… one can try to explain, but it seems to be something that we have to learn to do for ourselves.

    There’s always much more for people to learn… a lot of lessons that only life (i.e. experience) can teach. And it’s interesting how people who share their growth with the public, be it in writing, or through music or painting usually show a growth and change in their ‘art’ over the years!

    When I write (e.g. my philosophy papers or even on this blog), I try to do justice to my convictions while bearing in mind that what I am convinced of at this moment in time is based on the reflections of what I know or have experienced so far. It is to the best of my understanding, but they will always be open to re-evaluation and revision with new experiences.

    Theory without experience is dead. Experience without reflection is mindless. So let’s do both! ^^

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