I Study For My Mother

Published by alvinauh on

I had a one on one tutoring session with Jen today. As I entered into the class, I found that shew as unready for her lesson. That was fine, I thought to myself, perhaps she was busy. When class started, she was not being serious at all and that got me into a good 15 minute lecture on her attitude. Sensing that something was amiss, I asked why did she think her studies were important. She replied that it was not. However, she studies for her mother.

I pushed the books aside and asked Jen to explain a bit more on what she meant. She explained that she could no stand disappointing her mother when she did not do well. She gave an example of how her mother would utter words of frustration and anger, whenever her results were less than desirable.

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An Exam Culture

I nodded as I listened. It seemed as if Jen was conditioned into a equating love and approval to good results. This has led her to feel extremely pressured and unhappy. For those who are unaware, many Asian countries place a high emphasis on exams. As such, children are at times trained, groomed and molded to be academically excellent at the expense of their physical or even emotional development.

Similar to Jen’s case, the fun of learning and passion towards doing something important was secondary towards obtaining good results in exams. Ironically, this leads nowhere. I asked Jen what would she do if her parents stopped forcing her study. In addition, I asked what would happen once she had finished studying. She paused for a good 30 seconds and replied, ‘I don’t know’.

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Everyone Has A Purpose

I starting sharing with Jen about my thoughts on her current path. I told her that I was very much like her, pushed to excel in studies and sports. My schedule consists of me training 2 hours a day for swimming, attend music classes and on top of that, do well in school. It was tiring and I did it for my parents.

However, I was burnt out not long after that and gave up. I finally regained my footing when I had an idea of what my purpose in life was. This spurred me to doing well in my exams and other things. I explained that having a purpose does change one’s perspective. Whenever someone is inspired with a purpose, they do not tire easy, nor would they feel as if they are being suffocated with what they are doing. I told her that she was an excellent student and could go far in anything academic but she has to first realize this herself and stop doing it for her mother.

But I’m Not Good Enough

Jen stopped me and countered that she was not good enough. She claimed that she was nowhere as excellent as her classmates, her friends and her relatives in anything. Apparently, the bar on what is deemed as success was set very high. In short, to her, being good means being first.

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I told her that I too was the same. I explained that despite my training and me working hard, I never scored excellent results, nor did I win all my tournaments. However, I was unique in my overall skill set and my other talents. There are things that can’t be compared. Furthermore, we all end up using our talents and gifts differently and in various situations.

However, it is when we choose to apply our talents for a cause, that we start to see results that are often unique from our friends. I explained that we don’t always have to be first, but we do have to try our best in everything. Furthermore, we too should always use our talents for good and that is what makes life meaningful.


Jen is, and always have been a long term project for me. I do hope to see her succeed someday, not just academically but emotionally too. I just hope that I’m there before she crumbles under the strain that is placed on our children these days.