Growing up in an Asian family can be quite difficult sometimes, especially if your elders follow the traditional way of thinking very strictly. We are taught to follow and uphold our traditions. Some of these traditions can be as simple as not wearing black to family gatherings, to something as complicated as the ceremonies that we must do before getting married.
One of the most important traditions that was taught to us was staying together as a family. This differs greatly from Western ideals where it is always expected for children to leave their homes and find their own way in the world. In the East, the men are expected to stay with their families and work in the family business. Once the man finds a wife, the wife must enter into the family of the man and live together with her new family and the cycle continues.
I will not deny that this practice has its benefits and is meant to promote family bonds; however, there is also a dark side to this. We can’t leave our families behind and look for our own way in the world. Some of us are expected to even drop our life goals if it means leaving the family.
I’ve always wanted to cook, and have always dreamed of working for the best kitchens in the world. This obviously means traveling a lot and leaving my family behind. As many can expect, my family was not supportive of this idea. To many elders in the East, cooking is something reserved for women only and results in a low class job. I know cooking isn’t glamorous — it isn’t what is shown on those “reality” shows. I’ve had some experience working in a professional kitchen and I’ve experienced the blood, sweat, and tears that goes with it all and I truly love it.
When the time came for me to confront my family about my decision to leave, you can only imagine the reactions they had — especially from my grandfather. In the end, I decided to stay and work in the family business because I understood that I needed to take care of my family, as it was my responsibility. They are my family, and I understand that being the eldest meant that I had to stay to support them.
Fast forward six months and I find myself slipping deeper into depression. The fire that I once had for cooking and life has almost burned out. Every day is the same routine and I find myself wanting for the day to end already. While the work isn’t as stressful as a working in a kitchen, there just seems to be something wrong with it and yet I convince myself that I had made the right choice to stay and work here.
Now, I’m writing this at 2 AM dreading to go to sleep because I know when I wake up in the morning I will have to do the same thing again. I can’t leave because I’m already committed to my family and it would only be frowned upon by my elders.
Please understand dear reader that this article is not meant to seek pity. I understand that it was still my decision to stay and I have to live with it. I just want to let you know, dear reader, that when the time comes for you to make a decision, sometimes being selfish is the best decision you can make.