Whenever I speak to a counsellor, or anyone I decide to share my life with for the first time; they always start off with “Well, start from the beginning!” Immediately I think: where do I begin? How do I even start writing about myself? What is my story?
There hasn’t been anything particularly exciting about my life. I live the average North American suburban lifestyle. That in itself makes me so privileged. I was lucky enough to be born into a country that shaped me to who I am today. I am Canadian by birth, but I am Malay and Indian by descent. My father was born in Sri Lanka as a Muslim. My mother was born in Malaysia as a Sikh. When my parents eloped to be married, they moved to Canada to start their future family here. They made two children – myself and my sister. My mom was beautiful, disciplined, always happy, she was everything I wanted to be when I was older. My father was free spirited, musical, and adventurous. I grew up in an environment where I had two people who loved me very much.
Growing up as a child in Toronto, I found myself always exploring and finding new things to learn. I read lots of books as soon as I learned how, I enjoyed being by myself. I loved playing outside with my dad, and I loved helping my mom clean the house inside. We used to sit at the small dinner table on the weekends together and have our breakfast, lunch, and dinner as a unit. The television would always be in the background playing cartoons I enjoyed watching at the time. I wish I could remember more but it all feels like a blur now.
I remember bike rides with my dad: I loved being with him, he pushed me to be better always, he supported me, loved me, played with me, and never made me feel like I couldn’t do anything. He taught me how to believe in myself, and gave me the liberty to be as weird as I wanted to be. I’d often find myself alienated from others due to how I was at times, I didn’t know how to talk to other kids because I had nothing in common with them. I never quite felt understood anywhere else but home. I’d come home, play with my dolls, colour my colouring books meticulously, go to my wardrobe and wear whatever I wanted, sing songs I didn’t understand at the time. Over time, those things changed, I continued to embrace how weird I was from others, but still managed to make some friends along the way who liked me because I was nice.
That was probably one of the biggest lessons I learned growing up, that no matter how weird I was on the inside, if I displayed kindness to my peers, I could make friends. Once I learned that, I was unstoppable. I loved making friends. I don’t remember what I did with those friends anymore, but I do remember having lots of people to play with.
I remember waking up to my parents fighting. It happened more than once, and sometimes turned violent. I never knew what to do at those moments. I didn’t know how to stop it, I used to just watch it happen. A distinct memory was when I woke up in my parent’s queen size bed. I used to sleep with them at night when I didn’t want to sleep alone. I woke up in what felt like the middle of the night; the bedroom light was on, my dad was still on the computer using dial-up to connect to the internet, my mother was in the small walk-in closet talking to herself. I watched the fight escalate. The words got harsher, louder, more hurtful to one another. Eventually my father projected to throw his office chair towards my mother. She stood right at the edge of the bed so it happened directly in front of me. I was scared. I remembered not understanding why my dad would want to hurt my mom. Luckily the chair missed her. I held my sister on one hand, and my teddy bear on the other. I prayed to God that things would be better the next day.
Ultimately my parents split up, once that happened my whole life turned upside down. My mother took it upon herself to raise my sister and I alone. She couldn’t afford to live at the house we currently lived in, so we were forced to downsize. My sister and I had no choice on the matter. I went from having everything I wanted, to everything I didn’t want. I was a spoiled brat. We moved in to a lower suburban area – I remember distinctly bringing my sister’s and my bikes to the backyard while the moving truck employees and my mom’s friends helped her move the rest of the furniture into the house. We left the house to bring more things from the previous house over, when we came back, the bikes were gone! Someone stole our bikes our first moving day there! I was so upset, I already felt hopeless at this point. It made me sad because of the memories I held on to that bike, with my dad no longer being a part of the picture, I wanted to hold on to as much as I could of him. He was my partner in crime, and I didn’t know how I was going to grow up without him.
My first day of school after moving was interesting to say the least. I barely got a chance to say goodbye to my old friends, we lived in an age where we were too young to have e-mail addresses to keep in touch with, so ultimately, those friends faded away from my memory. I made new ones fairly quickly. I was about ten when we moved to our new home. I remember it being around Halloween. I started at my new school at the fifth grade, which I found to be quite challenging since many people at that school had already had a chance to grow up with each other and form bonds, I came at the last leg of their school year before we all had to move on to middle school together. I had a lot of smart friends that kept me in check for the most part, but the moment I went home, I would do no school work what so ever. It was hard to stay motivated and I couldn’t help but wish my dad was around to help me. I felt so pathetic. Why did I need my dad? Why did I need anyone? Why couldn’t I do it myself? Despite asking myself those questions, it didn’t change how I felt. Some days it did, and I was able to get my work done, other days it would just make me sad.
Right from fifth grade, we had the opportunity to choose which middle school we wanted to go to. There were different options to choose from, and the top two for me – were choosing between the middle school I was assigned to, or going to a French-Emersion middle school. I was very good at french at a young age, I picked it up quickly, and I was passionate about it. However, I couldn’t bring myself to sign up for the school because of the average required to apply. I felt like I wasn’t smart enough to give it a try so I never did. I remember being a part of reading clubs like Silver Birch in school and never finishing the books we were assigned to read, and I was never able to talk about the books we were supposed to read in discussion together. I did like reading, but I guess the time pressures, or even the book we were supposed to read made it difficult for me to stay focussed. Due to my lack of focus, I felt as though going to that particular middle school wouldn’t be for me. It was the same reason I never joined sports teams, because I felt like I wasn’t good enough.
That’s where it all began – fifteen years ago.
- When we moved to a house I didn’t like
- When I knew I had to grow up without my dad,
- When I knew my mom wasn’t going to be able to support my sister and I emotionally, because she had to support us financially.
I felt almost rushed to grow up, and I didn’t want to. In a way, I felt like Peter Pan – I never wanted to grow up, I wanted to stay young and have fun for as long as I could! I didn’t want to face my responsibilities before my time, I felt as though I had tons of time to be responsible and I wouldn’t be a kid forever. However, being the eldest child in my family, I did have to come to terms of responsibilities at times. I tried to guide my sister as much as I could, but eventually – she ended up maturing much earlier than I ever could help her do.