Selfish vs. Selfless

My mother used to tell me that she wished for me to be selfish. “As a woman, you can be happier if you are a bit selfish. Getting what you want and caring for your needs should be given priority.”

But she’s also the most selfless person I know.

She always let others eat first. She herself would still be busy in the kitchen when everybody else already finished eating. She put other people’s need before hers. She spent more money for my father and me, while she wouldn’t buy anything nice for herself.

And she’s not the only woman who wishes herself to be more “selfish” but does the opposite in reality.

Why is that?

What my mother meant with “being selfish” actually means giving your own needs priority. In our generation, it’s not “selfish“; it’s called “self-care“.

It’s based on the scenario that everybody’s feeling is acknowledged. In this case, only if one takes care of her own needs, is she able to take care of others’ needs. It means that “I will make myself healthy and happy first so I can take care of others who I love and who love me. If I ignore my own health and happiness they will not be happy. And that’s the opposite of what I want for them.”

Therefore, isn’t the “selfless” behaviour, the one where the other people’s feelings were not taken into account, the de facto “selfish” one?

Why are there still so many women — wives and mothers — putting their own needs and feelings in the last and thinking “that’s the way it’s supposed to be”? It’s in the end the selfish “selflessness” that defined the role of women in a household, a family.

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A rock and a river

I used to think that I was a rock with sharp edges. And the world around me was like water and wind. The only thing they’d do was to change me.

All that I wanted to do was to resist that change.

Resisting was the main thing I did. It’s the first reaction to anything that made me uncomfortable and wonder.

I thought I was surrounded by “the norms” — how I was supposed to be — and I was trying to get out of those boxes.

So I rebeled. I kept resisting.

Until resisting became a part of me, my identity, a self-designed box.

When will I be ready to set myself free from that box?

When I finally realise that I can choose not to be a rock that’s almost hostile toward the world. And when I know that I can choose to reconcile and let myself be enriched from the good and the bad, the happiness and the tragedies.

I’m not a rock.

I am a river.

Kraft paper book covers

I thought that was… paper. Thin, wrinkled paper. But it was the wall.

Like one of those chairs that look deceptively comfortable. But when you sit on them, you’d say, “Oh, it’s made of plastic.”

This paper looking wall reminded me of the Kraft paper my grandma used to buy for me. He used them to make covers for my text books and notebooks, so that my books would remain as tidy as possible.

After putting on the cover, my grandpa would use a blue pen, write my name and class number on the cover in perfect Chinese calligraphy.

Some children used to take pride in having tidy textbooks with no rolled-up corners. And I was one of them. It showed how much I took care of those books. With neatly written notes on every page in different colours, my books told people how much I was learning, how much thoughts I got from those pages.

I was a proud kid in school for most of the years.

But I was not proud because of having a well-used and tidy textbook collection. I was proud because my parents and grandparents were proud of my exemplary textbooks and my good scores.

And putting on the Kraft paper cover is the first step of getting there. It’s the ritual towards a deep dive into that book and some learning experience and results that would make my family proud.

This first step is serious, solemn, full of hope and loaded with expectation.

It’s one of my favourite school memories.

Losing contact

Are you losing contact with people from your past?

If yes, then, more importantly, does it bother you?

I guess those who don’t have a problem losing contact with friends have the least struggle with who they are and where they are in life. They are doing ok. Or they are not self aware or reflective.

I’m kind of in between —

I’m not active in terms of writing messages. Or keeping in touch in general.

When I’m with a friend, I don’t check my phone or answer calls. I’m with that person 100 percent. But after we say goodbye, it’s hard for me to keep up with replying messages.

I don’t like to feel like my phone dictates my attention. And I don’t feel bad about it.

But it bothers me when I’m looking back, I haven’t talked to some people, who I really cared about in the past, for years.

Because losing contact with those old friends feels like losing touch with the old version of myself.

Oh yes, I’m involuntarily different with the company of every person. I bet you are, too. You just might not have noticed.

Sometimes talking to an old friend of mine feels like being back in the head of the old me again. And that always makes me smile. Like traveling through time. But more exciting, since we are travelling into the mind of ourselves, when we were wittier, funnier, more stupid, more outgoing, more carefree…

And that’s just wonderful. But it wouldn’t happen so naturally if the person, with whom you shared the past, was not there.

You might remember, once upon a time, you were witty, funny, more stupid, more outgoing and more carefree. But you will never simply “remember” how it was being stupid, more outgoing and more carefree.

That being is the version of yourself that you don’t want to forget. That’s who you were, and part of who you are right now.

So, call someone today. Someone from your past that you have lost contact with.

Someone you are thinking while reading these words. Someone with whom you like the version of yourself.

Call. Don’t write. If you can and are willing, meet for a coffee at the park. That’s what I’d do.

I want to know how I get here, so I want to know where I was. And how I was.

(Oh, and you should genuinely care about how they are doing when you call them. Don’t call just to feel good about yourself. That’s not nice.)

Root there, body here

I’ve been dreaming about going home for a while. Every night, I’m back there, at my grandparents’ apartment.

In my dreams, I’m always the child running up and down the stairwell, hiding from other kids and the grownups. When it’s dark outside, I run back in to the apartment and eat with my grandparents.

Even the furniture is arranged in the way twenty years ago.

Having a baby in the time of the corona virus makes going 7500km back home really difficult.

Almost impossible thanks to the travel restrictions and quarantine regulations.


But I have hope.

I have to live on hope because that’s the only reason I’m still functioning as a person right now.

My home is where I grew up, where my families are.

I want to get far, far away from it. But I’m always tied to it. And I need to go back regularly. That’s how I am.

In fact, I’ve been away since more than 10 years ago. I’ve never wanted to move back. I belong out here, in the world, wherever.

But I’m not rootless. I’m not a nomad in that sense.

I can grow anywhere. But I only have one root that I don’t have with me.

It grows deep into the soil of my home. The one and only.

The name

Give it a name so that it can be seen.

Give it a name so that it can have a voice, can be heard.

Give it a name so that it can be understood.


Strip away the name so that it can stay how it is since the beginning.

Strip away the name so that it can go anywhere.

Strip away the name so that it can be anything.

Strip away the name so that it can be free.

Plan for 2022: write a memoir

Who writes memoirs?

I thought only old and very famous people write memoirs. They must have much to say about their experience. And it’d be interesting for the world to know their side of the story. Because their view matters.

I want to write a memoir next year.

I’m not old. I’m in my early thirties. And I’m not famous either. Nobody cares about my past experience. Nobody cares about my point of view on things.

My view doesn’t matter to anyone…

Any one but myself.

I’m writing a memoir for myself.

I’m writing it because I was lost for a few years. I fell off track and couldn’t come back for a long time. I want to look back at when and how it happened. “Face it,” I hear myself saying, “so that you can grow from it.”

I’m writing it because I start to forget about things. Things that I wish I can keep in my memories forever. Like in the film “Coco”, we live to be remembered; we exist as long as we are remembered. I simply want to keep some people alive in mine, in the only way I know how.

I’m writing it because I’m feeling stuck in my own life. There are things I want that I don’t know how to get them; and doors I don’t want to go in but they were wide open. It feels like I’m standing mid-way in my life but I have to start from scratch anyway. I feel there’s nothing in my hand, since the “me” in the past didn’t earned us anything useful for the future.

I’m writing it for my child. I care about her view on me when she wants to know about me. And I want her to know my side of my own stories.

I’m writing it from the earliest memories of mine. I’m writing about my family, my childhood, my school time, friendships, rebellious time, struggles, persistence, dreams… choices, heartaches, hopes, disappointments, the beautiful and the ugly…

As a storyteller, finally I’m telling my own story.

That’s going to be quite a project. That’s why it’s going to be the project of the year 2022. I will keep this channel posted about the exact plan and record my progress.