Experiences that have shaped me.9:02 PM
According to my mum, I was a very high needs baby. I would demand a lot of attention from my parents, especially my mum (my main caretaker). I had separation anxiety, often craved for skin-to-skin contact, and was highly sensitive to the environment. It drained my mum's energy as she had to juggle between taking care of my needs, as well as doing her job as a housewife.
If that wasn't enough, I would cry all the time.
1) If someone looked at me, I would cry.
2) If someone laughed at me, I would cry.
3) If someone touched me, I would cry.
It's no surprise that I was given the nickname 'Crybaby'.
Anyway, the only people who could carry me were my immediate family. Imagine how tired my mum was, having no one to help her take care of me (since I wouldn't let it happen).
Things were slightly better as a toddler. Although I was still clingy and hated human touch from anyone apart from my family, I wouldn't cry if I was put in a situation where I had to interact with others. It was alright, but I would just feel extremely uncomfortable.
As a kid, I was a very shy and reserved individual. Even if no one bothered about me for the whole day, it wouldn't even matter. I liked being alone. Every week, my parents would bring me to Church and I'd sit there quietly, listening to the sermon that the priest was giving. I wasn't like the other kids who always had to be entertained with drawing/colouring books and toy cars.
My parents were rather strict in disciplining me. When I was 3 years old, I was trained to read 4-5 books a day. And as time passed by, I ended up becoming a young bookworm. (That explains why I'm short-sighted.) As soon as I turned 4, my mum would leave me home alone with my 3 year old sister. She believed in training us to be independent, from a young age. And when I was 5, I was made to do simple household chores on a daily basis and I haven't stopped since.
Honestly speaking, I thank my parents for this strict discipline that I received when I was a kid. It actually had a huge impact on my personality, culture, values and beliefs. Especially the times that I was caned for misbehaving, that really turned me into someone who never fails to abide by the rules. This has resulted in the following: Never smoked, never drank alcohol, never taken drugs, never played truant and never doing anything that would worry my parents.
When I was in Singapore, my dad co-owned a motor service company (with his brothers). On some days, my mum would bring us to his workplace to wait for him to get off work.
One day, my dad's friend (S) dropped by the workplace to visit my dad. While socializing with my dad, S drank a lot of alcohol and became drunk. He was talking at the top of his voice, laughing loudly and making quite a din in the office. As I walked into the room with a balloon in my hand, I headed towards him and tried sitting on his lap. My parents stared at me in disbelief.
How could it be that their daughter, the one who didn't like strangers, choose to sit on S's lap?
What more, someone who was drunk and was acting all loud and rowdy?
And that's the story of how S became my god-father. #truestory
As I started school, I began interacting more with my peers. I got used to being around people, and even made heaps of friends. We would attend each other's birthday parties and would organise impromptu outings out of school. I think I was the happiest during this stage in my life.
Although it was clear that I was an introvert, I was no longer that reserved (at this age). There were times when I was shy, but it only required some time for me to warm up around people.
When I was 13, I moved from Singapore to Australia (related story can be read here):
I attended an all-girls Catholic Primary School in Singapore, famously known as CHIJ. Being in an all-girls school, I was surrounded by girls five days a week so I hardly had the chance to meet guys (apart from my neighbours). Puberty hadn't hit at this point, so it wasn't that bad to be surrounded by girls all the time. Life in Primary School was great, and I loved every bit of it. However, after taking my Primary School Leaving Examination in Singapore, we left for Perth, Western Australia. In Australia, I attended a High School that was of a walking distance to our new house. It was a co-ed school. The first few days were tough. There were guys everywhere and their presence made me uncomfortable. It was something that I couldn't get used to, considering the fact that I spent the last six years being surrounded by girls.
Once, a guy came up to me and requested to borrow a pen. I struggled so hard to make eye contact, and when I eventually did, ended up telling him that I didn't talk to guys. Unfortunate for me, he yelled as loud as he could, announcing to my classmates that I was a lesbian. Upon hearing that, I felt so upset to be wrongly accused. Made myself a reminder never to answer a guy like that again, just in case another misunderstanding occurs in future.
With all the bullying (racism and awkwardness around guys), I began to be more withdrawn and reserved again. I would enjoy spending time alone at home than to socialise with my classmates at school. But in my late teenage years, I was lucky enough to find a clique to hang out with at recess and out of school. Wouldn't say that I felt like I truly belonged, but it was enough to make me feel that I was no longer singled out by my peers. it meant a lot to me.
With work experience throughout the years, I was able to get out of my shell. Having to interact with all kinds of customers, it was something that I had to do if I wanted to keep my job.
No one would want to hire someone who struggles to talk to customers.
However, deep within myself, I was still reserved and shy. If I wasn't at work, I couldn't open up. So one day, I signed myself up for a volunteer program with AIESEC. I had to teach Primary and Junior High School students English, and to educate them on the Australian culture. Although it was something out of my comfort zone, I pushed myself to go for the opportunity. I needed to fully get out of my shell without being dependent on my job to force me to do so.
And I must say, it was the best decision I had ever made.
During my volunteer exchange experience in Taiwan, I managed to gain confidence. When I taught my first class at 桃子腳國小學 (Tao Zi Jiao Elementary and Junior High School) which was assigned to me by AIESEC NTPU, I was not only made to stand on the stage, but was also given a microphone to speak into. It was my first time doing both of these things, although it may be normal for others. Over time, I saw the positive changes in myself. I no longer feel nervous having to speak in front of 30 students, and I'm even able to manage the class well.
I even made some friends in Taiwan! Some of them were volunteers, like me, while others were locals in Taiwan. I still keep contact with most of these people on a regular basis, and their friendship is incredibly precious to me. You know who you are.
All in all, taking up this volunteer program was an unforgettable experience. I gained confidence that I needed (for self-improvement purposes), and made valuable friends that I would keep for life. What's better than killing two birds with one stone?
So, my friends, these are ALL the experiences that have shaped me to the person I am today.