On Thursday, I called my mom for the first time in a couple of weeks. I had planned on telling her about my summer plans, how I wasn’t going home and was staying in town to practice and study. But as soon as she picked up and asked how I was doing, I broke down. I tried to suppress the sobs, but they just poured out, seemingly from nowhere. There was a festering ball of frustration in my stomach all day but I had no idea how rapidly it built up until it exploded.
It hit me all at once. Not performing well in simultaneous interpretation class, not having the Chinese ability required for my program, failing one midterm, barely passing two midterms, not performing as well as expected on yet another midterm. As I poured my frustrations to my mom, I realized what the root of the problem was. None of these failures mattered. It was the fear of disappointment that got to me. I was afraid of disappointing my parents, others who supported me, and most important of all, myself. My parents worked tirelessly their whole lives, so they could provide me with better education opportunities then they could have ever imagined. Others who taught, supported, encouraged me along the way all set an invisible level of expectation. But none of this to was, to any extent, their fault. My harshest critic is myself. I’m a perfectionist. My English is never good enough and my Chinese has to be just as good as my peers that have it as their A language. The time I spent on practicing was never enough. I was never happy, never satisfied.
My mom was wonderful. She sat with me as I tried to stop the sobs, a zillion physical miles away but emotionally, only a few inches. As she peered at me through the webcam from underneath her reading glasses, I knew everything was going to be okay. My dad sent me an email a few days later, after he heard about what happened from my mom. In the email, he wrote: 「在我經驗裡，有太多太多的前例告訴我們，天主沒給我的，總是因為他有其的安排，不必質疑，也不必失望，只有自己努力，期待他為你安排的機會出現[…]但是我還是忍不住，要以一個父親的角色，提醒你們人生是充滿許多的無耐的，也許一時不能盡心意，要知道如何調整腳步，重新找到自己能survive 的作法。」(Translation: “Experience has taught me that if God doesn’t give me something, it means he’s made other arrangements. There is no need to question or be disappointed, as long as you work hard and wait for the opportunities he has reserved for you. […] But as a father, I have to remind you: Life is full of frustration. You have to learn how to adjust and find ways to survive.”)
People fall all the time. I’m fortunate to have fallen less. That’s why this bout of pressure was so hard on me. But it’s a blessing in disguise. We are all faced with difficulties, some more so than others. When challenge rears its ugly head, we shouldn’t back down. We shouldn’t let anything get in our way, be it fear of failure or fear of disappointment. We need to work on finding peace within. After this stumble, I need to put aside my pride and my fears. I must come to terms with myself before I can effectively tackle any other problem.
And in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”