Since moving away from my family for university, and beginning an exciting new chapter of my life, I find myself feeling much more nostalgic than I had expected.
As a teenager, I was always rebellious against my parents’ stereotypical, overwhelming Asian control. Looking back, I was an overly confident and self-assured kid, I always thought what I wanted was right, and got easily frustrated when I thought my parents didn’t understand Australian culture and tried to impress traditional Chinese values on me. I found every rule or expression of their anxiety irritating and excessive, which spurred my impatience to move away for university so I wouldn’t have to constantly answer to them.
The freedom that came with independence was an eternally enticing prospect. The reality of what I feel being so far from my parents is not nearly what I expected. I have often surprised myself, stumbling across a thought of them, and feeling homesick.
Being in a new country has made me reflect more on the sacrifices and achievements of my parents. I am filled with incredible pride for my parents; the first of their families to go to university, coming from rural China, with relatively poor upbringings, who have managed to create a life for my brother and I where we have always felt comfortable, and for them to support me whilst I live abroad. They moved away from their family and friends to live in country where they didn’t understand the language and culture, where they are part of a social minority. This change to create a better life for me uprooted everything they knew and were comfortable with.
Now, knowing what it is like to live in a country where I barely speak the language, I can begin to grasp the extent of such a change and recognise their sacrifice; although the word falls short. It doesn’t speak of my dad’s over-qualification for a mundane job, and his inability to be promoted because of his English. It doesn’t acknowledge my mum’s obsession with her garden patch, so that she can grow and taste the unique vegetables of her home country. It doesn’t account for the decision they have to make between buying plane tickets back home to see my grandparents, or to send them the money so they can have a better quality of life. It doesn’t address the distance and hurt that was created between us when I was in high school and clung onto Australian cultural ideals that ultimately repressed my Chinese heritage.
Joyce's mom's garden patch
All of my privilege and the the resulting happiness is owed to my parents’ sheer hard work, and the sacrifices they have made. Everything they have done has been for me to have a better life than they did. And yet this is not an exceptional tale. Every first generation immigrant has a comparable account of forgoing what they knew for a chance at a better life. I am acutely aware of this now, and regret not acknowledging it earlier and showing my appreciation to my parents. Being a difficult, impatient teen and naïvely taking their efforts for granted has elicited a guilt that now manifests itself here, as an attempt to substantialise my gratitude.
So, to my parents, thank you for always guiding me towards what was best for me, even if I did not always believe it. Thank you for working so hard for the life you have given me. Thank you for your selflessness. Thank you for teaching me how to love, simply; what a glorious lesson to learn. Grateful is not a sufficient word. It does not cover the rush of affection I have when I think about my opportunities, knowing I owe them to my parents. It does not account for me pleading with my brother to be kind to them, and my patience in explaining to him why he should tell them he loves them. It cannot acknowledge my determination and drive for success, so they don’t have to doubt whether their sacrifices and hard work paid off. It does not speak of the promise I have made to myself, to do anything for them at absolutely any inconvenience to myself, for they know more of sacrifice than I ever could.
Joyce's parents when they were young
Joyce Fang is a first-year student at the campus du Havre. She's from Adelaide, Australia, of Chinese origin. You can find her knocking back beers at Wallaby's, or furiously studying in the library. She also features in the first episode of the podcast "Wine Society". She wrote this letter to her parents while taking a break from midterm revisions.
Edited by Pailey Wang and Philippe Bédos