Breaking Out

October 23, 2008
By
My grandmother used to say, "Women are nothing but trouble." Some might agree with this ancient Chinese saying, but it simply reflected the patriarchy society I grew up in. Even though Taiwan is a developed country, its cultural ties are nowhere far from mainland China. Growing up in a society and a family full of elders that carelessly emphasize the importance of sons over daughters, I learned to do everything better for myself. Perhaps I wanted to prove all the patriarchy societies in this world wrong, but mostly I wanted my family to recognize the equality between me and my brother.

One of my first profound memories was when my mother was pregnant with my brother. I asked her if the family was in the same felicity when my sister and I were born. She told me that people were happy that my sister was born because she was the first child, but my birth was less celebrated in comparison to my older sister's birth. I began to doubt my existence and the sincerity of my family's love towards me. I was further put into doubt when my mother went on and said, "When you were born, no one came to visit; not even one soul. Your father came late from work, and your grandmother only made a phone call to ask for your gender." She sighed and said, "When your grandmother found out 'what' you were, she hung up the phone and never paid me and you one visit in the hospital." Although I knew that my parents loved me regardless my sex, I felt constantly shadowed by my older sister and often ignored by my parents over my brother.

I was never as outgoing as my sister in front of adults, nor was I as successful as she was in elementary school. Not only did she get A's on tests and quizzes, she also played the piano brilliantly; she even won multiple English speech competitions. While she succeeded in almost everything, I struggled to break out of her shadow. I said ‘yes’ to almost everything my parents asked me to do. From picking up the violin at the age of four, entering a speech contest unprepared, doing chores that I hated, watching basketball games that I didn't understand, to finally becoming the nice, obedient child that my parents wanted me to be. For almost eleven years of my life, I never knew what I really wanted, what I was capable of doing, and who I really was. Things took a gradual turn shortly after I turned eleven.

The second semester of fifth grade, our family moved back to Taiwan after one and a half year of business venturing in Canton, China. I entered a new school, but soon enough I was just one of the faces in the crowd. I never saw my potentials in anything until my teacher asked me to enter a Chinese improvisation speech competition of the City of Taichung in the elementary division. I, without any hesitation, accepted her offer, because I got tired of seeing other people return with their awards and honors. The day of competition, I was given the topic: "What would you do if you were a magician?" I didn't plan anything out in my head, not even the second before I went on the stage. To my surprise, I won first place – I was finally recognized for something.

I ran out the classroom right when the dismissal bell rung through the school. Before my father greeted me, I squeaked in excitement, "Dad! Dad! Dad! You would not believe this! I entered the competition and guess which place I won?", before he answered me, I went on, "First place! Can you believe it? Can you believe your daughter won FIRST PLACE!?" He smiled and said, "Of course I believe you won first place, in fact, I knew you were going to win. All my children are smart. No, I am not surprised, but I am happy for you."

On our way home, I was too busy wearing a big fat smile on my face to have a conversation with my father. Before we entered the house, I asked my father again, "You really knew I was going to win?" He replied, "Well I never thought you were going to get first place, but I knew that you can do anything you wanted and be good at it." Those words meant more than anything in the world to me. For the first time, I felt capable of doing anything, and most importantly, for myself and not for anyone else.





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