No…sorry. This isn’t a reaction to the last book of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. This is a little less fantastical, a little more real, but probably equally scary. Probably.
Picture, if you will, a hospital bed at 4:20am. In this bed is a woman, with a bulging womb, crying in both joy and agony as she tries to force out her first child from said womb. A man, presumably her husband, is standing by, praying to the Heavens that everything will go fine. Nurses frantically rushing to comfort the soon-to-be mother, and dashing to notify the appropriate staff.
Now, picture that same mother, on the same day ten years later, sick. She has breast cancer. She has been an in-patient, receiving regular treatments of radiotherapy for about a few weeks. Same hospital, but this bed is up on the tenth floor of a different wing. Her family (now of two children) visit her regularly. The husband has been sitting by her side, trying to tend to her every physical and emotional need. It is around 12pm when the children arrive to visit.
Now, once more, picture that same hospital, that same bed and wing, this time with the mother’s sister in the bed. The sister is dying of an advance case of lung cancer, and she has a predicted life expectancy of at most three months. She’s been in hospital for a week since that diagnosis. The mother mentioned at the start is accompanied with her children, as well her nephew’s family (wife and two daughters), as well as her brother. She promptly dies at 7:20pm.
Now…one final time…picture that these three snapshots are taken on the same day of those years. July 12th. My birthday, a day my mother was an in-patient at the Mater Adult Hospital, and my Third Aunt’s last day of life.
That last event…it only happened in 2015, coming up to a year from when this was posted. As my 18th draws closer (at the time of writing this), I’ve come to realise a bit more of who I am and what my purpose in life should be.
I realise…that I’m quite an extremist when it comes to self-criticism. In fact, it’s not even self-criticism. It’s self-hate. I see myself as nothing more than a person who, for most of his life, wasted his entire life doing nothing but terrorise fellow classmates in playgrounds and raiding gaming consoles in relatives’ homes. And in 2010, when I found about my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wanted to change that. I wanted my life to contribute to the quality of life, not the ransacking of resources.
But when my Third Aunt died…I really didn’t feel I accomplished anything in those seven years after that fateful hospital visit. I felt useless. I felt like I still lived that stupid world of childhood me. I still felt alone.
But…a very silly (or spiritual) thing happened to me that fateful evening. As I sat in the lounge on that 10th floor ward, just a few minutes after my Third Aunt passed away, I felt her come to me. Holding back the tears, I saw her. In my mind. Even though I was listening to the One Punch Man opening theme, she came to me.
She said to me, as she sat down in that quaint little chair she loved back in her home…
Tin…your life isn’t over yet, darling. You still have so much to learn. So much to do. So much to love. You haven’t lived a meaningless life. You’ve brought joy to my life, and I’m sure you’ve brought joy to your mother’s life too. You’ve been there for all of us, supporting us with your naïvety and playful heart. You aren’t as evil as you make yourself to be. You only do that because you feel like you lack control. Don’t worry yourself about having no control. Control is something you have over yourself, not of the world. If you can find peace in yourself, you’ll find a way to spread your charity and love to more than just us tired souls.
And ever since, I’ve pondered and searched for this meaning; her sweet and tender Vietnamese filling the gaps in my concentration in times of massive self-doubt. And in the year that’s gone by, I still don’t know for sure what it is. Maybe another year, maybe another decade. Heck, maybe another half-century will pass before I truly answer that question. But I don’t want to be left behind by our ever-expanding and ever-complicated world. I need to find some sort of standpoint from which I can base all other assertions off. Assertions about myself, my past and future, my family, and my friends and mentors.
And here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
- Love yourself, but never forget to love others too.
- Believe that you can achieve.
- Defeat is only a state of mind, and it’s okay to feel defeated.
- Weaknesses and strengths are always in constant opposition to one another.
- Never fear the inevitable; it will come, so prepare for it.
- Never forget to thank ALL the people around you.
This list is in no ways definitive of my view on life thus far. I feel strongly about the first one, and many people fear that I need to start looking after myself more, because my selflessness is too extreme. But in reality, there is so much indifference that people experience day to day, that for once I want to balance it out. And if someone ends up taking my money, my home, my job, and my life because I was charitable…well then, that’s the world we live in. Hopefully, that man/woman/child will be caught, and they will learn just how much better the world can be if they threw away their hatred, their fear, and their confusion about the inevitable: death.
The others…well, let’s just say I need reminders every now and then.
In this short lifespan of nearly 18 years, I’ve grown so much from that little baby who had all these cute and witty one-liners in a fusion of Vietnamese and English. I’ve grown from the child who pressured himself – nearly to death – about being the top of the class. I’ve grown from that naïve entity who was intolerant of failures, not only in himself, but the entire world.
I’ve grown…but I’ve still got a long way to go.
And I will grow with time. I will have grown in ten years’ time. I will have grown in a month. Heck, I will have grown by the time I reach my 18th birthday, the greatest crossroads in a modern child’s life.
Here’s a saying I’ve made out of all of this. If you don’t remember anything else from this teenage rambling, remember this:
18th birthdays: where one’s past, present, and future, collide.
Time: where the world’s past, present, and future, collide.
I wrote this prematurely for the TEDxQUT event, which is happening sometime in August this year. I submitted a 100-word pitch about my presentation, and this is practically the speech I would like to share, if given the chance.
I hope you, dear reader, enjoyed this, and if you wish to make any comments on this, just message me via my Contact Me page, or write them down in the Comments section below.
Oh, and before you go, DFTBA!
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