Ever since I was a child, I do not fit in.
I don’t fit in the slightest bit, and it worried my parents very much, especially my mother. Like all parents, she wanted her daughter to have lots of friends, to grow up to be a good girl, get a respectable job, marry to a good husband, and live happily ever after. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s a very plausible and sweet expectation for a daughter.
But I simply couldn’t, right from the beginning. As a child, I couldn’t seem to understand what do the children found so fascinating about their topics of ..well, I couldn’t remember what. Because my father brought me up to learn about the seven continents and five seas. Because he wanted his daughter to learn about the history of China (the three Kingdoms were his favourite at that time). Because my mother wanted her daughter to be able to speak English. Because my grandmother wanted me to know the myths and stories of the olden days. Because my grandmother’s favourite show was National Geographic at the time (she particularly like snakes and turtles).
Because of the language barriers (most of the children in my Kindergarten speaks Mandarin), and because of the difference in upbringing, I did not fit in. I didn’t speak much when I was in Kindergarten. I didn’t play with the kids. I had my two best playmates – my younger sister and a Malay girl one year younger than me who lived opposite. What the other children did simply did not interest me. I don’t remember much about them, except that they were loud. They talk so loudly. They practically screamed at each other. Recess time I hated the most because I didn’t know what to do. I simply don’t fit in. And it worried my mother because I wasn’t normal. Normal is being able to play with other kids. Normal means blending in.
And of course, because my mother worried, naturally I think that it is my fault for causing her unhappiness. Naturally, I thought that there is something wrong with me. Naturally, I feel really inferior – why can’t I be what my mother want me to be? Naturally, I tried to change.
I tried and tried to fit in. I tried to know the movie stars that everyone is so crazy about. I tried to understand why they are so crazy about them. I tried to imitate being as crazy like them. I tried my hardest to be one of them. When I read a passage too fast, I read it from the top again to be in pace with everyone else. When I run too fast, I tried to slow down to keep in pace. I tried to be interested in music, when I am tone-deaf. i tried to like drawing but my hands are really not in my control at all. I tried to like shopping. I tried to like gossiping, I tried.
And I’m not saying I regretted trying to fit in. At some point I even succeeded. And being one of them, I overcame my shyness, I became more outgoing, I gained a little bit of confidence when coming in contact with people, I laughed more. I learned how to let go and be a crazy teenager (ok, I enjoyed that part). But it also came at a cost. While trying to fit in, I was in contradiction with my true nature. And it caused a lot of harm to my relationships with my family. During those years (from about 10 years old to 17), I seriously have very little memories of them. it’s as if I cut them out of my life, while living in the same house with them. And the years lost are not something that can be gained back. I was absent during the years my sister needed a big sister most. I was absent when my brother needed a sister most. I was absent. Though I would not say our relationship is horrible, it lacks the closeness that comes from growing up together. And this is something I will regret for the rest of my life.
I’m not saying that it is easy accepting that you might never fit in. It’s not easy to get used to being alone. I don’t mind being alone – I enjoy my own company and mind very much – but there are a lot of people who are suffering this loneliness. But it’s better to live with yourself, and be true to yourself. Instead of having to change yourself, spending time with people you don’t understand, doing things that don’t fit to you.
I believe that being true to yourself is much more important than being accepted by people.
This is to all those who tried to fit in and failed, to all those who tried and succeeded, to all those who are still trying.