I’m not sure how you feel about me while you’re up in heaven (or purgatory, I really don’t know, time is puzzling), but I can only hope you are proud of me as your daughter.
You missed meeting my husband, and my wedding, which I will always be slightly sore about. Hope it was a celebration you would have enjoyed. I remember the only time I ever saw you drunk was at my sister’s wedding 10 years ago. I couldn’t even drink alcohol then but I figured you were on full celebration mode and completely let your hair down (though not much). Well, at least your sister and brothers were there to remind me of what your expression would have been on that day, I guess I just have to vicariously live through that experience.
I remember when I was 10, I had a big fight with you and mummy about higher Chinese. I was getting the equivalent of C in normal Chinese, so I’m not sure what made me fight tooth and nail to take higher Chinese, and why I even thought I had the capability to do so – but I did. I scored 73 without my integrity, 37 with. My stubborn ego completely smashed during the final exams in primary 5. I’m not much of a high achiever, but that moment was probably the hardest I ever fought for something I so deeply believed in, probably not the wisest move in hindsight, but I was 10.
I never fought for much afterwards, secondary school, junior college, university and my first job. Choices and opportunities came by oddly easily, I always felt like I took the wider road, the one that allowed me to perform above average and get by comfortably. That was the goal after all: always do well enough to have options and decide what was best available choice afterward.
You never scolded me much since primary school, perhaps because I never did anything risky, I never pursued anything ‘great’ – to be the best gymnast, to top geography, to make a groundbreaking film, to disrupt the design industry. I played it safe because the best-of-the-worst was a better place than being the worst-of-the-best.
So will you scold me now? Quitting in a bad job market for lower pay, giving up my comfortable job with great benefits, and moving into a time of great uncertainty. Is this the higher Chinese episode all over again? Stubbornness, irrationality and blind faith? Maybe I should just wait till the options fully reveal itself, weigh the pros and cons and jump in, maybe this is the time to do something great, maybe there’s more. How do I know? Is this how you wanted me to grow up?
Recently, I met a friend who shared a similar vision for the communication and art space in the Church, and it really affirmed me in pursuing this dream I have, not just for me, for the church. Wary of self righteousness, I couldn’t help but feel that same ache in my soul, that drive to fiercely fight for this dream, a dream that really isn’t ‘mine’. I imagined that if anyone asked me “why are you giving up your job for a career in the Catholic Church?” I would merrily respond that “it’s a calling! I really want to do this no matter how silly it sounds!”.
But being 18 years older than I was, I know it’s not all that simple, there are financial concerns, difficult timelines, personal goals and family to consider and work on, I can’t just count on you to make those choices for me now. I think I’m just coming to terms with how much ownership I have over my life choices, especially after getting married.
I’m not sure what you might have said if you were here but I recall that time in 2010, I was so worried about asking you if I could skydive (I was actually afraid of the risks and the monetary costs), but you very readily and undramatically said “Sure!“. So while you’re not physically around anymore for me to run this by you, or for you to lecture me, I just wanted to let you know that I’m proud of being your daughter, to have been fathered by you and brought up to fight for what matters and to what I’m drawn to.
Well, it’s another milestone you’re missing after my first big step in getting married, but I thought you might want to know that I moved on from a job that I could perform above average at, to pursue something I feel like I could die for. Maybe, after all, you raised a high achiever. (I wouldn’t expect an A for chinese still though :P)
Praying for you.