— An essay about being human in the time where one is no longer a child, but not yet an adult; a period of change and instability
By Aida Hurttia
Translated from the Thai by Fah Michaud
Note: Please be mindful in your reading, as this essay may contain topics with which the reader may disagree. This piece is a work of fiction, and does not pertain to factual truths in any way.
This piece is an essay about being a teenager, a time that is akin to the period in which flowers must wilt once December arrives, before blooming again with the visitation of spring.
Do you agree, that us teenagers tend to be seen as problematic, when in truth, that perspective belongs to the older generation: a perspective that is derived from their fears of a changing world? From what I’ve observed, adults tend to be attached to the past, for good and bad, some more than others. Because the past is the ground on which they can reminisce back to the old days, old situations, and people, all of which they are unable to forget. And maybe it is because the past is what they are familiar with. It makes them feel safe, and in control of the only thing that they have control over, which, is memory.
I reaffirm again and again that being “parents” does not mean that they have the right to set in stone the life of someone who, by random chance, was born as their “child”, because in the end, they have to accept that they must walk out of their “safety”, to prove to me that they are able to do the job of being “parents” well, and are not just using that word as an excuse to dictate my life. When they are brave enough to step out of that zone that they are so familiar with, they will see that all this time, the problem has been them.
Adults like being expectant, in waiting for things that will never become true.
The sentence that I most often hear, the sentence that shakes me to the core once it is heard coming from the mouths of my family is: “Other people’s kids can do it. Something this easy, why can’t you do it?”
Because, it is not as easy as you say, I want to shout. But all I can manage is a meek “sorry”, sorry that all I did wrong was not playing the role imposed on me as the “child” of the family well enough for you. I’m sorry.
I swallow my anger, ready to flee and hide my face to bury the hurt that can be seen, clear as day, from the tears that threaten to spill over my cheeks. This is how every conflict always ends: with the family pretending that I do not exist. Never answering when I ask. Never picking up when I call. Never replying when I text. This is how it plays out every single time, just because I’m not as good as the other children; not as good as they want me to be.
Everything I do is wrong. Everything I do is not as they want it to be. I really want to ask: how good is good enough for you? How good do I have to be, to be as good as these “other children”? Or maybe the child that they keep talking about is a child that exists only in their imagination; a child that is created in their heads, a figment of their imagination which ignores the simple fact that I am just a human being that is going through exhausting changes, both physically and mentally, and I am so exhausted of trying to chase down every single expectation they have of me.
This is not even half of it. My family also wants me to do every single thing in the exact same way that they want me to, because they think that their way is always the best, or right, way. But the truth is that everyone has different manners of doing things. What is best for one person may not always be the best for others.
Everyone in my family are traditionalists. All of them think they are always right. It makes every single peaceful disagreement in which we all have different opinions end up in a shouting match, just because they seek victory over all else.
When a reasonable conversation ends in boiling, frothing emotions, the one that needs to back down and say sorry is always me, because the adults think they have done nothing wrong. Reconciliation falls into the hands of the child, who has to take responsibility to be in the wrong, even if I was not wrong. But just because of my position as the “child”, it has been decided from the very moment I came out of my mother’s vagina who the “loser” of every shouting match will be before any of us even open our mouths.
All of this makes me wonder: if they want me to be this perfect child who no one, with no exceptions, can top, so badly, then why can’t they do the simple task of being a decent parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent? Other people’s families can do it. With something this easy, why can’t our family do it?
This is something you may all understand. We have been taught to be submissive.
Submitting to our family. Submitting to society. Submitting to those in power. It is the worst thing for teenagers who are still trying to find who they are. It creates boundaries that prevent us from being ourselves. We have been raised to be passive and compliant, to be a good addition to Thai society, being akin to a flock of sheep!
Thai society is made up of sheep that move without direction, without aim, on the treadmill they call the road of life. These sheep have been conditioned to follow the herd, so that they are not hated by society. The worst offense here is having the courage to become a “wolf”; a wolf that is not afraid to share its own ideas, not afraid to break old traditions that we’ve followed since back when Thai people rode goddamn buffalos, not afraid to have an unapologetic, individual self. The punishment may be death (being hated by society = the end of your life).
Because of this, we’ve been taught to listen to everything adults say, and behave as we were suggested to (more like ordered to, really) by adults, because adults are never wrong, just like gods. Except it was only by chance that they were born because they are merely the result of two people who had sex, before my parents had sex!
In any case, we are but flowers that have not yet bloomed; flowers that await for a spring that will never arrive. Even if everything in this world may have a lifespan that cannot be truly determined, and even if a flower in bloom may look beautiful and solid, it is always able to fall down to the dirt and mud on a day unblessed by gentle weather.
It is too often that a branch breaks because it is not able to support the weight of a blooming flower. The two cannot coexist. And so, the whole tree too, must fall.