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Breaking Barriers in Between

In the early morning sun, I stepped on foreign soil. I was drowned by the new responsibilities I was assigned, afraid of the new and unfamiliar life I was about to start. From the very beginning, I was constantly reminded what I must do to have a better future for myself and my family. Most children did not have to contemplate life, yet there I was, a young child, not even seven years of age, weighed down by the pressures of my upcoming future.

Of course, I was beyond grateful. My family pressured me because I had more chances, possibilities, and opportunities than they did. Psychologically speaking, I think I push myself to fulfill their dreams because my family missed out on so much of what is available to me. I will forever be grateful for this wonderful life, but I believe that if almost everything is forced upon me, this wonderful life becomes… a daunting prison.

I ventured through life for almost 11 years, in a foreign place I now consider home. Many people around the world immigrate to new lands to seek greater opportunities for themselves or their families. I migrated because my mother wanted her only child to receive a higher standard of education. I felt as though I was never enough, never sufficient, that if I was not the best, I was not worth it. Through the years, I dealt with fairly similar issues of self-degradation. I didn’t perceive it as a problem until my sophomore year, I realized I was degrading myself, my identity, and my knowledge.

When I entered high school, I wanted to focus on my passions and interests. However, my constant need for validation led me to seek the approval of my family, instead of taking the time to soul-search and find my self-identity. I was lost. I didn’t know who I was, and I most certainly didn’t know what to do.

For the first three years of high school, I was conflicted with the pressures of being the child of an immigrant. I was expected to do the right thing and never make mistakes. When I did, I blamed myself, negatively reprimanding myself by asking why I made a mistake. Growing up means that you will make mistakes, learn from them, gain experience, and continue with what you have learned. Now I have to admit, I forced myself to grow up so I could handle things on my own. I suppose that is why now I am so uptight and controlling. I was expected to mature as soon as I knew what the word “mature” meant.

And so, the sleepless nights became sleepless days. I thought the only way I could prove my worth was through meaningless letter grades. If I go back in time to tell my younger self that “grades do not define your knowledge,” I would. Nevertheless, I was hardheaded and I thought this was the only solution to be accepted. I studied, almost to the extent that it could be considered self-abuse. I didn't take any breaks, so I became sleep-deprived and exhausted.

Instead of seeking guidance, I pushed myself to do as much as I was capable of. Whatever it took, I looked for activities after activities, distracting myself from my actual issues. I keep on telling myself, “Maybe this is it. This is your passion.” It rarely was. Maybe it’s because I was terrified to exit the walls of comfort I built for myself. I realized that while I had been studying for exams after exams, assembling a resume, preparing for the future, I have not really lived. I have neglected the life that my family has given me.

Deep down, under thick skin, I wanted to escape. I wanted to know who I really was, what I was capable of. However, I was afraid.

It was a hard pill to swallow, by the middle of my junior year I had come to my senses that I had drained myself. I was no longer motivated, I lost interest in most activities I somewhat enjoyed, and I was tired. I no longer cared if I didn't meet the expectations of others, I wanted to do what I wanted. And that led to acceptance.

I knew I needed to accept myself, but I also needed to learn to love myself. Sure, accepting myself was hard enough, but loving myself? That took a tremendous amount of work. I was taught to be humble, to never take pride in my achievements, to thrive for more, and to uplift others. But, I don’t remember anyone teaching me to uplift myself as well. Uplifting myself began with little things: accepting my mistakes, learning how to take pride in what I have accomplished. Soon it escalated. I started to break down the barrier of the walls that I sheltered myself in, I knew that I had to do that first, let myself out. To this day, I am still learning to do that, I have not completely broken down the walls, it’s a continuous battle, but I am not here to give up.

Failing is part of loving yourself, it meant that you tried and now you will learn from it. I will fail again and again and again. It’s all part of growing up. Acceptance and failure are two significant concepts that we all have in our lives, and both are essential to success and happiness.

-Angela Lim

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