Another beautiful 3 day weekend spent in Union Square, San Francisco. The weather is nice and sunny but I am not all that thrilled about the breeze, that wind chill factor making it so much colder out here. Lunar New Year isn’t that big of a deal to me anymore, but it was my favorite holiday season when I was a little kid because I received lucky money from my father and all his friends who came over to our house to wish us Happy New Year. The memories of those days is still vivid even though the time frame is seemingly distant. I don’t miss those days very much for I was an unhappy child and while growing up, I never felt love or warmth at home due to all the complexities in a big family. I was a quiet child, sort of a loner in the world who kept everything to myself and never shared with anyone about my miseries, not even with my dad. We were 57 years apart and I just didn’t know how to communicate with him in a way to make him understand me any better. All these silences building up turned me into a depressed person.
I dealt with depression ever since I was in my early teen and carried it with me for many years without sharing with anyone, just keeping everything to myself. From the outside, I seemed to be that normal kid on the block failing school just like the others, but the inside was eating me alive and I didn’t know who to turn to. Unlike my half siblings, I didn’t do well in school so I had no real status of a voice in the family. I was just that dumb child who got expelled from Kindergarten. I hated school, my classmates , the teachers, and I never participated in any of the activities in school and very often acted up during class. Yes, the expulsion from Kindergarten was a disgrace to the family and later on I failed third grade elementary school due to poor grades especially in mathematics, not to mention about the excessive referrals I received almost on a daily basis. I hated that school and all the classmates because they picked on me every day and the teachers just joined in to cheer. Yes, another expulsion from third grade and I really felt alone suffering from being shameful in the family without having any status at all. As I grew into my early teen, I hated school even more and I also hated to be at home. Home life was a disaster to me and many times I felt like running away and just live out on the street. My depression only grew stronger but still not sharing it with anyone although my father could see it, but he never understood why I was so unhappy. Dealing with depression was not fun especially at such a young age and it went on for many years feeling that I wasn’t good enough for my father and the family. I felt hopeless, meaningless, and envious of people who were much better, smarter and successful in school and in lives. In my mind, I knew I could never be like any of them for I was a failure, useless, and a loser in the world. There was no point for me to try any harder because I was not capable to do so, at least that’s what everyone was hinting at me and I bought it, I believed in it and I accepted it.
This depression I suffered took a turn when I finally got an opportunity to attend a private boarding school in Nova Scotia, Canada. Now I was away from all the unhappiness in Hong Kong, leaving those horrific teachers and classmates behind including my step mother, on my way starting a new life and a new beginning. I was faced with pressure from my father to do well in school, learn the English language well and prove to him that I would be a productive human being in the future. Depression wasn’t the only thing I had to face but pressure to succeed as well. There at the boarding school, I faced discrimination being the only Chinese student, but I had to learn to blend in, speak their language and do well in school for my father. At the age of fourteen, this was way too much for me to handle.
This depression of mine once again came back to haunt me after I came to Fremont, Ca for my high school education. I never had a mother in my life and living with half siblings wasn’t easy. I hated to be at their home and wishing I could run away. The next couple of years turned out to be better for I found a family whom I could stay with and they were extremely nice to me. I was able to stay focused in school and I actually was doing very well, straight A’s student, ready to graduate as a Valedictorian to make my father proud. Then the news came about my father having lung cancer with no more than 6 months to live, this shattered all my dreams and hopes, and I had to face reality meaning to support myself without his guidance. This great depression only got deeper and at the age of seventeen, it was so depressed for me to accept.
With my dad gone, I worked long hours at a fast food joint, cleaning and cooking at $2 an hour to pay my rent and food while college was secondary to me and I never could focus on my homework. Earning this minimum wage was all I cared about so I could survive and my future was shattered. What future? I was only thinking about how to survive and try not to let my depression get in the way but it was inevitable. I felt hopeless once again with my dad gone, a sense of emptiness in my life without parents or family, ( well, I never really had it to begin with), the only thing left was me and I had to live day by day without any purposes or meanings and I was literally living one day at a time with no plans or goals, it was a sink or swim situation and I chose to swim. Depression was eating me alive deep down but I kept it from all of my friends because there was no need for them to know and nobody could lend a hand anyways, so there was no point of telling the world about my problems.. This great depression lasted all the way til I graduated from college and at the time I was still that drifter out in the big ocean getting lost without hopes.
The turning point in my life was when I saw the opportunity to obtain a work visa teaching at a private school, I took it and worked extremely hard with very low wages at the time but I certainly learned a lot from it, and that work visa eventually led to getting the permanent residence which then I took another opportunity to apply for a junior college teaching position of which I held on to this day. I also took a big chance in purchasing a house in the bay area ( Mission San Jose District) and today I own the home and debt free, got my citizenship back in 1995 and been travelling to more than 50 countries ever since. I have been blessed with what I turn out to be today and it seemed like a miracle. Many people tell me it was my father watching out for me and guided me all along. As a son, I respect what he had provided for me and I miss him terribly til this day, but as a scientist, I am not ready to accept that his soul is living out in a different dimension guiding me along. He has given me a start and I simply looked for opportunities and have taken many chances to get to where I am today. I feel blessed about that. These days my life long friends are all telling me how fortunate I am having such a good life, how smart and how successful I am, only if they knew what pain I went through starting as a child, the pain that ate me up alive inside in all these years , the great depression I had to deal with ever since my early teen and to the day I graduated from college. The loneliness I felt even while my dad was still alive and definitely after he was gone. My struggles for existence in all these years was miserable but it paid off. Depression is not fun because someday I felt great and so motivated while other days I felt so pointless to live, that feeling is so dark and lonely. I sure hope it will never come back to me like a cold virus and I certainly don’t want any of my friends to go through what I did. Believe it or not, as happy as I am now with my great life style, I still have fear that someday this syndrome will come back to haunt me. Yes, I do have flashback every so often and that will never go away completely, but these days they are less frequent. If I have any advice to give to others, I would say go reach out to someone with open communication, let them know how you feel and whatever that is bothering you. Don’t keep it quiet to yourself like I did. I just happened to be fortunate in this case and I thank Mother nature for it. There are many people suffering from depression but they don’t tell people about it. I never did til this day when I decided to come forward.
Life is precious, limited and unpredictable. Live it to the fullest. A fulfilling life is far more important than just living a good life. The essence of living is to make changes for the better so we can appreciate what we have. As I often say to my friends that tragedies are tools for human to gain wisdom. I am not getting any wiser but I am certainly getting clearer about what I need to do to better myself every day. We learned from mistakes and those are always good lessons. For those people who are suffering from depression, I hope you find ways to deal with it by opening up to others and you can fight depression. There is a light that you don’t see and there is a dream , don’t ever let go. May all of your wishes come true and that you find fulfilling moment once again in your life. Happy Lunar New Year ( The year of the dog).