Growing up in China in the 1980’s, I was part of the generation that was born under the one child policy. The general upshot of this generation was that every family wanted their child to be the best.
Expectations were high, we were pushed to work hard and aim for the sky. My family was no different and being the only child in the family, I quickly came to realise that my parents depended on me. I wanted to work extra hard so I could achieve not only for myself but to provide a decent life for them too. During the 16 years I lived in China, I learned that when the stakes are high, you fall behind quickly if you don’t try your best every day to move forward. “Aim high, be better than last time, and keep trying” was my internal mantra, and still is.
At 16 I set out to forge my own path and moved to Canada with a scholarship offered by an international high school program. Living away from family, continuing my education as an international student without the ability to speak English was very challenging. It was 3 years before I could comfortably speak the language and probably 7 years before I could joke and have banter in English that allowed me to form real friendships. I became a student of the university of life and what I discovered during my early years in Canada, was that you didn’t have to be the best at everything. Everybody is different, people have strengths and weaknesses and we’re all allowed to find what we’re good at and what we’re passionate about and build on that. When people hear the challenges I was facing at such a young age, a lot of people ask me how I did it. “Focus, be positive, and remember your purpose in life” is what I always tell them.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve not taken the easy route and it has been a struggle. There have been times in my life when I have felt lonely, and still do sometimes. I’ve felt frustrated during struggles to get my voice heard whether that be through language barriers or cultural differences. All those feelings are normal, and it is OK to feel them sometimes. However, through my experiences I’ve also learned that no matter what our race, sexuality, background or culture, we’re all human and ultimately we all want the same thing – to take care of the ones we love. This is my core, unflinching belief and it’s what allows me to relate to and have an ease with whoever I meet. And I would equally love to spread that message to other people through their interactions with me. I’ve learned that just being a good human, treating others how you would like to be treated, and even showing your own vulnerabilities, gives you a sense of calm. The more open you can be with people, the more they mirror that back to you. “Be comfortable with being uncomfortable” has been a motto of mine to keep me going during the tough times and keeps me challenging myself to step outside of my comfort zone.
Every human, I don’t care who they are, has vulnerabilities. And it is OK to say no or ask for help if you feel like you can’t deal with something. A lot of people, and men in particular, can often feel the burden of being surrounded by people who rely on them. In my case, as the only child in the family, I feel I need to tough it out. I’ve got to be strong and together no matter what, whether I feel like that on the inside or not. But there is more damage that can be done by taking this approach, both to our own psyche and wellbeing and to those around us who we think we are trying to protect.
So I guess, for international men’s day, I would like to remind people that it is OK to be NOT OK. Showing vulnerabilities shows your strength of character, not weakness, no matter what gender, race, sexuality, background or culture we are.
The rest of my story is still yet to happen. I’m back in my home country, growing Kentech’s operations here. I’m shifting back into a different culture and meeting new people. My life lessons continue as I hope they always will, but I know that staying true to my core beliefs will make this next stage of my life a success.