As a child growing up in Hong Kong, my performance in school was below the required standard especially when it came to mathematics. I failed mathematics all the way through 7th grade and it was the most horrific subject for me. I was afraid of it, I never understood it and I absolutely hated it. The teachers at school never made it clear why I had to learn it, nor did they show any applications of what were presented in the classrooms, and they never explained the importance of the subject matter other than just feeding us with all the information which we needed to memorize for the final exams and getting good grades seemed to be the ultimate purpose of receiving an education, so I had no desire and saw no purpose to learning mathematics. Most people including myself, thought I had a learning disability in mathematics and needless to say, not very well accepted in the family. My father got furious at me whenever I failed mathematics more so than any other courses. He decided to hire a private tutor for me, 2 hours a day, 6 days a week, and all year round just on the subject of mathematics. These tutors decided to give up on me for I could never performed well enough to pass, and one by one, they started leaving. My father got more angry at me and my hatred toward mathematics only became more intense. But that wouldn’t stop my father from searching for a math tutor to give me better guidance so I could pass the course. By the time I was in 7th grade, the math teacher we had at school whose last name is also Lau, and ” Mr. Lau” as we called him, was by far the worst math teacher I ever had for he would insult students whenever they got the wrong answers or performed poorly on tests and exams. Naturally I got insulted by him in front of the entire class numerous times where I felt embarrassed and furious at the same time, but not much I could do in those days. Fortunately, my father found another tutor and for once he was a much younger guy, 18 or 19 at the time who wore long hair and looking really stylish. In fact, he was good looking and tall. He seemed like a cool dude and we quickly developed a strong rapport and I found him to be very passionate about mathematics and he was able to show me not just the methods in solving various problems, but the relevance of learning the subject matter. His approach was non-threatening unlike all other tutors that I had in the past. He was patient, enthusiastic, and knew his materials well. His goal was to become a mathematician and physicist for he was outstanding in those subjects. He was able to explain mathematics to me in a very interesting way and motivated me to do well in school. As a result of his expertise, my grade in mathematics began to improve and I was ahead in the book and understood the materials much better. I started to enjoy mathematics because of his teaching and I looked forward to having him come to our house tutoring me. He was the very first person in this world who could motivate me to do well in mathematics and he turned me around to liking mathematics, and more importantly, he made me believing myself that I could do it. He was my very first major influence and when he left to further his education in the University, I missed him terribly and my father wanted to find another replacement for him quickly so my performance would not slip at school. Well, he did find one and this guy was just a brilliant mathematician who was already studying in University. He lived in his own world of mathematics and bragged about how he invented different methods in solving and proving various theorems. He was also a very nice, soft spoken fellow and simply enjoyed mathematics as if it was the only thing to do in his life. My father hired him on the spot and said to him” please teach my son”. I also had very good rapport with him and he taught me well with all of his brilliant ways of solving problems and he sparked my interest in mathematics even more. I must say I owe to these two guys who made mathematics enjoyable and given me the necessary foundations to further my math and science education in America. Now as a mathematics educator myself for so many years, I hope to have sparked interest about learning mathematics and provided my students with information such as why they need to learn mathematics and how it shaped our technological world of today. Without my two private tutors providing the necessary support and planting the seeds in me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They have made a great impact on my passion for mathematics.
Growing up in the family was not a happy time for me and my childhood was as horrific as learning mathematics. Without a mother looking after us was a big disadvantage , so our father took up the responsibility to raise us who was also our sole financial provider. He was straight with us but a very reasonable man who wanted us to do well in school so we could become functional individuals in the society. Due to the complexities of the family situation which I won’t go into any further discussion here, ( you can if you wish, refer back to my Xmas blog from Hong Kong to get some info there), my father wished to send me abroad to America to further our education and be exposed to bigger opportunities and be able to establish our independence at an early age. His health was deteriorating but he hoped to see us succeed in the future. As for myself, I was in desperate need of a new start, a new life, and to become a new person. Having the opportunity and the great support from my father to go to America at the age of 15 was a gift, paving a pathway for me to build a new life. So what my father did had a major influence and impact in my life which without it, I wouldn’t be who I am, where I am, what I do today, and definitely wouldn’t be here to blogging this on my website. I owe everything to him for opening up the pathway for me, it is only sad that I will never be able to repay him for what he had contributed in my life.
I attended high school in Fremont, Ca and my grades were outstanding especially in mathematics and physics for I had the basic foundation from my private tutors. While everything was going fine in my last year of high school and getting ready for college applications, bad news about my father suffering from lung cancer with no more than 6 months to live, my heart just dropped without having any clues as to what it meant for my future. My feeling was a mixture of sadness, scared, insecure and hopelessness. There was only one thing on my mind that I was sure about, and that is: I have to be on my own taking care of myself without any guidance from him. ( I was only 17). Sink or swim, it was my call and my life. I took on a cleaning job at the fast food restaurant early in the morning before school started, then went back there in the afternoon when school ended to finishing up all the necessary cleaning, and went back there in the evening til mid night working as a cook behind the grill making hamburgers. I barely could find time to do homework, in fact, I could not focus on school work but placed strong emphasis on my work to save up as much money as I possibly could so I was able to pay for renting an apartment, food and other miscellaneous items. There was nobody I could rely on but myself. After my father passed away, I flipped out and all I could think of is to keep working at the fast food joint making my low wages of $2 an hour to keep my head above the water so I wouldn’t sink to the bottom of the ocean. School was secondary to me and after a while, it wasn’t even on my list of agenda anymore. I frequently cut school so I could work additional hours to make enough money to pay my monthly bills. I drove for the longest time without any insurance because I couldn’t afford it. Got to take chances and I certainly did in many ways I could think of. I have taken lots of chances as much as I missed them. ” Survival of the fittest” is the name of the game which I have been playing so well even til this day. When I was in the game, I realized I couldn’t let any form of emotion get in the way to prevent me from moving on. It is what it is and I had to accept my unfortunate situation and couldn’t cry about it all life long. ” Wake up and smell the coffee”, ” get your gears going”, ” make something out of your life, David”, ” Time to move on”, ” It does no good to sit there and be self pitiful “, ” There’s no going back, you must go on”. Those were the phrases pondering through my mind, and the only thing was to put them into real actions. And so I did. Today, I have an established career, a decent home to myself, financially stable, debt free, and a world traveller for the past 25 years to more than 40 countries. I consider myself a strong and independent person, very deterministic and efficient when it comes to making major decisions and accomplishing various tasks without letting any emotion get in the way, and I have buried it all for the last 30 years. ( a machine, that’s what some of my friends call me).These days I have a difficult time to retrieve what I buried in all these years and I have been criticized as being selfish which I do admit without guilt, for I only had myself to depend on while sailing the ocean, fighting the strong waves, and coming out alive. Neither I had the time nor willingness to make room for anyone during my struggles but to focus on my own future. And yes, what my father had wished came true for him, for I became very independent at an early age due to his early death which saddened me, but at the same time, it gave me the courage to move on, paving my own paths to success. The lost of my father at an early age became my third major influence in life. It has both the good and the bad, and somehow the bad portion of it has turned out to be something good at the end for me. While most people consider I am successful, I question myself about the truth. Do I just want to be that strong , independent, and good survivor like I always have or do I want to be a more understanding person who can show more affections to people, learn how to compromise, make sacrifices, show more consideration for others and be able to share and to love? Although I am very contend with my life without any issues or baggage and appreciate where I am, what I do and what I have, yet I still have a long journey and much to accomplish for myself. There’s always something in the back of my mind telling me that I could have been a better person, could have been more affectionate, could have had the ability to make sacrifices, compromises, and exhibited more love and care for others. Well, I have been a great survivor in all these years even til this day. Put me under the deep ocean, I will float. Put me in the sea of love, care , sacrifices, compromises and affectionate, I just might sink.