“You’re very mature for your age,” said the adults I met in my teens.
Has that ever happened to you? Being 12 years old and hearing that felt like a compliment. You’d think you’re one of the grownups. You get to sit at the Big Kids table and join in the conversations with other ‘matured’ people.
I thought it was all rainbows and paradise but as I grow older, I realized I couldn’t keep joyful conversation with my peers.
You’re like an old, wise turtle filled with wisdom — A phrase I heard too often
I’m truly grateful to be born and raised in peaceful, beautiful Singapore. As kids, we probably had to only worry about getting good grades.
My parents gave us a lot of freedom because they had to work a lot. After the 2008 economic crisis, my dad was laid off… so he started his own food business. My mum and dad had to wake up super early to prepare the food and manage their operations until late at night.
We learnt to fend for ourselves at home
My younger siblings were always getting bullied. I remember they were getting taunted by some older kids. So, my older brother sent his friends to walk with them when he had class. RESPECT BRO.
An early taste of freedom
I will always remember the days that my friends were fetched by their parents. I had my older brother waiting for me. Mind you, he’s only 3 years older than me. We learnt to get used to it.
Looking back at it now, I’m extremely grateful for the freedom. I learnt not to depend on others too much. While kids had to wait for their parents, I could easily cycle home faster and start watching cartoons.
It taught me how to empathize
I was eight and my younger brother was seven. He was in his first year of primary school when they realized he has a learning disability. He would throw tantrums and hurt his teachers.
That’s when my parents learned about autism.
This meant that I had to watch over him after my classes. When my parents were at work, the responsibility quickly fell to me.
There were a lot of bad times that I can’t simply express here. It’s not a pretty story so, I’ll leave it to when I have more courage.
All those experiences made me have a very different perspective in life compared to my peers. While they wanted to discuss homework and gossip about people, I wanted to understand mental health.
When their phones rang, it’s good news. When mine rang, it was either the school or my parents needed my help.
Can’t connect with my peers
I had close friends but as time passed by, I simply couldn’t engage in their conversations. I have no interest in who is dating whom.
It dawned on me that I will never be like them. I will always be on the outside of the social circle. And that’s okay. Once I learnt to accept myself for who I am, I broke out of the circle.
The truth is… I don’t regret it
Being out of your comfort zone brings different perspectives to my life. It opened up my mind to bigger possibilities. And I’ve met a lot of incredible people along the way. Yes, you are one of the amazing people.
Everything happens for a reason. Your past is preparation for what’s to come. Enjoy the process and live your life.
A version of this post was previously published on Medium.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
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