When I grew up in Germany, I learned how to swim, but I never really mastered it that well, neither did it ever become a hobby. Receiving a medal didn’t encourage me to keep on swimming.
I gave up on a list of things when I was young, including the piano, guitar, drums, tennis, and learning to write in Chinese.
I don’t remember pursuing anything my mom chose for me. She made friends with a lady who said that I had to be more active and socialize with other kids. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that kid. I still had to befriend that lady’s daughter, who was dumb and did nothing but take off her pants in front of boys.
My comfort activity was watching cartoons all day, whenever my dad wasn’t teaching me how to play poker. However, my mom wanted me to make friends and have fun because her generation never had that opportunity.
When she grew up in Hong Kong in the 60s, she and her sisters would help my grandparents at work. The only time she acted a kid was playing with her dogs and tapping her fingers on the dinner table, pretending to play the piano.
It’s funny when people say it should be easier for a child to adapt to a different country than adults. But it was more than that.
Mom and dad never understood that I had trouble identifying my yellow skin with the other German kids. Moreover, while I spoke fluent German, the Russian and Polish kids didn’t, yet, they fit in better than I did. Years later, I realized that there was a difference between nationality and ethnicity.
According to my classmates, my almond-shaped eyes didn’t look like those of the anime characters on TV. For the longest time, I would try to widen my eyes, but they would continue singing racist nursery rhymes and do the slant-eye pose.
I got rather miserable without knowing how to channel my emotions productively until my mom’s last attempt to find me a hobby. She bought me a defective Hello Kitty journal for my tenth birthday. Eventually, everything defective about me went straight in that journal.
And something clicked. I had found a best friend in whom I could confide. It was a revelation, an epiphany! Soon I realized that bottling up emotions would bring out the worst in me but as long as I dumped them on paper, I was fine.
Still, writing is not a hobby. To me, it’s more of a first aid box or a rescue kit. First, I put my mind in the recovery position, and then I work out how to put things back in order. When done, I feel a sense of accomplishment.
You might call this a form of self-therapy because everybody was too preoccupied to listen.
I didn’t want to become an inventor, secret agent or assassin anymore. I wanted to be a writer and manifest the truth through stories, reimagine fiction for therapeutic purposes.
On some days, I would jump into the water and pretend that I can’t swim.