I will remember it as the place where I made peace with myself.
Shortly before I left, my mind was in turmoil; seeds of doubt had been planted as to my own self worth, loveability and way of life. I felt cheated that the first impressions people had of me were completely unjustified, and that I had to somehow correct these impressions, because by my own conduct I was misrepresenting myself. What I prided myself so much on – empathy, and the ability to see things through others’ eyes, that drove me to want to be a family lawyer because I felt I could resonate with the clients – was impugned, and perhaps for the first time since I entered law school, I feared that I might not have the qualities necessary to make good in my present field of choice.
On long car rides and plane rides and goodness-knows-what-else rides, I realised that it’s perhaps unimportant to justify myself before the world. If the world, or rather, people who might become my friends, is/are superficial enough to take me at first impressions, like a job interview, God forbid, then I think I would prefer not to be their friends. In professional life, yes, first impressions do matter, and matter very much; that is why I put on my best front for would-be employers, because they have not the time, luxury nor capability to get to know me better. But friends? As I told M, I think that there’s no point in self-promotion before friends. Why translate that superficiality that we have in working life over into our personal life? I want to be as real as possible in every aspect of my life, and I want to pen this down so that nothing anyone ever says to me of the consequences of doing so will make me waver in this resolve.
I must confess that I did not arrive at these conclusions on my own, but they were already forming in my head and crystallised only when I met L, a friend of my Mom’s, in HK. What she said to me and about me I will remember for a long time to come, and it only confirmed to me that the people truly worth knowing are those willing to look past one’s trappings to the true person beneath.
One thing though, that I realised, was that I perhaps say too little about what I really think. Things that mean very much to me I am unwilling to write about, as with religion and my mom, my personal ambitions and struggles, and the things I do for love of my friends, family and God. After reading Anna Karenina, I realise I do so because I do not want to be challenged in things that I hold so dear, and perhaps hold so dear that words cannot fully express the depth of how important they are to me. To constantly talk of something so dear seems to me to cheapen it; I even go to extremes and deny the existence of such in my life so as to fend off questions about them. And yet, I realise it is precisely because of this unwillingness to talk about such that people often have erroneous first impressions of me. Temperance, Rachel, temperance; but even now I cannot bring myself to write about those things nearest to my heart.
I remember how, a few years ago, a friend blinked at me in surprise when, in response to his/her question about how I could afford expensive birthday presents for people and still have substantial savings, I replied that I budgeted these into my considerations of monthly expenditure and spent less on myself accordingly. I remarked then that I couldn’t understand why people who got a much higher allowance than I did continuously complained about not having enough money year after year, when a bit of budgeting could save all these wasted words. That friend then remarked that not everyone had that zeal or loyalty to friends to make such considerations, and I disbelieved him/her then, thinking it mere common sense, not zeal or loyalty, that would push people to do so, and that these things were undeserving of praise. That friend was certainly wise in his/her words. These are things I would have thought were obvious upon observation, but perhaps I expect too much of the passerby, who is always willing to take things at surface value. Connected with this memory is that of an acquaintance I made in secondary school, a choir member and soprano, who continually boasted about how many songs were too low for her soprano voice, and people praised her for it. Having pride in my own vocal range, which I knew to be higher than hers despite not being in the choir, I imitated that, only to blush deeply at my own folly a year later upon reading that Christina Aguilera had a 4 octave vocal range and had mastered all 4 octaves. It was also then that I discarded faith in first impressions, but failed, till now, to realise that people are all too ready to parrot what has been put forth without conscious inquiry: that a failure to master the lower ranges signified a good singer.
China closed a chapter of my life for me, or rather, it bridged a gap in my life. How chronologically sound, as PLC starts next week. All in all, a poignant conclusion to a brilliant holiday!