My parents emigrated from China many years before I was born. I’m a 2nd generation Asian American, born middle class.
Growing up has been challenging to me, in ways most would not understand. I was socially awkward growing up. I have never had a mentor my entire life all the way up until college. My mom does not speak very good English, so things were always miscommunicated and lost in translation. My dad would come home, stressful from work and impart the same wisdom to me many times over. Its like being forced to listen to your least enjoyable song, constantly, for several years without any say of when the song plays.
Being the youngest in the family, I have never had much say in anything. It was get good grades, be a good boy at school, and that’s it. Every dinner conversation is just my dad talking, 100% of the time, imparting more unsolicited wisdom. It was never “how was your day today, did you meet anyone new?”. None of that. I’ve been the blunt end of almost every conversation for as long as I can remember. My dad would introduce me to family friends by saying hilarious and stupid things I’ve done as the first introduction. Make fun of me in public to random strangers, kicking me in the butt as a means to bond. Ask why I don’t have a sense of humor. I would cry, but then get laughed at since “men don’t cry”. I would get told to not keep things to yourself, and to let it all out. Only when I did I would get ignored, my dad has flight instincts upon emotionally difficult subjects. He would tell me stories about how his siblings would beat him up growing up as he was the youngest in his family. He never did anything like that, but secretly I wished it were the case so I could let out all my pent out emotions. My whole family has been this way for as long as I can remember – just flat out ignore emotionally difficult subjects. This has been painful to me because I didn’t have anyone to talk to about my problems. Both at home and at school, these issues were very hard to relate to as a socially awkward kid.
I had a nanny growing up, who also didn’t speak english. I was always told I should be grateful for all the money and luxuries I had in life. But for as long as I can remember, I lived a poor lifestyle. Almost everything I had ever known growing up, was a hand me down from my brother. No smart phone until I graduated college in 2013. No airconditioning for almost 8+ years in tropical weather, some days would exceed 100*F, because my parents were frugal. I developed insomnia along the way. Work to me started at age 13, almost every summer and every weekend.
I don’t blame anyone in my family for the struggles I dealt with growing up. My dad really tried to be a fatherly figure, but he wasn’t very good at it. My mom tried to understand my problems, but the communication barrier is too hard to relate complex issues. My brother didn’t enjoy my company due to constantly being forced to lug me around due to my dad’s wishes. Its a shortcoming of a combination of unfavorable factors.
Because of this issues, I never really developed social skills growing up. English also wasn’t my first language either. I always wanted to go out and meet people. I had to get permission from my brother who never gave me a straight answer or encourage me at all. It was just “tough love”, e.g. if he had to learn something the hard way, I had to do the same. On one end, I had conflicting emotions of having friends meet my family, b/c my dad would just tell embarassing stories constantly. On the other side, I was obedient to my parents, whom also never gave me straight answers about leaving the house. This is part of the traditional asianic culture that has been imparted onto me. Its grown so much onto me that I would ask to use a public bathroom even into high school.
I got bullied a lot from K-12. School was hell. Home was hell. I hung out with only the rejects in school, because I wasn’t really an interesting person to talk to. Because I sucked at telling stories, had no interesting hobbies, and never had any social skills. Sports was something I was never good at, since I never got out. Last pick for kickball was a norm to me, and fucking everything up with flyballs is what I was good at.
I never told my family the struggles I faced at school. I never told people at school the struggles I faced at home. Both were extremely hard for either side to understand, so I’ve just kept my mouth shut. Its seriously affected my life holding this out for the longest time, so much that I had abnormal heart issues growing up. I would get pants’d on more than one occasion, be at the blunt end of ketchup projectiles at lunch, and sexually harassed for over a month. My parents did not know my burdens, infact my dad assumed I was spoiled because I grew up middleclass.
This is what I looked like in school. 27″ legs, 9″ biceps. Someone once joked that I looked like a “lego” or an anime figure. It was the biggest burn in my life, because it was said so casually. My mom told me to never waste food, so I was constantly the dumpster for too much food at dinner. Being the youngest sucks, you have no say in the matter. She would get angry and insulted if I didn’t finish it, so I ended up getting fat. And skinny, because I never went out or played sports.
I was skinny fat. Real skinny fat, not what you see on social media or news. I couldn’t even do a girly pushup
It didn’t help that I also drove a really nice car in high school. Although my family is frugal, they like nice cars, so I drove my mom’s Mercedez Benz. Everyone at school thought I was spoiled. At home my family thought I was spoiled. I paid for everything I owned through all the summers and weekends I worked. I hate being born middle class, sometimes I secretly wish I could’ve been born dirt poor. Because money never brought me happiness.
People would get annoyed when I did well in exams without much studying. But, I almost failed second grade for being too stupid. I was always told that I’m smart because my parents are so, or that I’m asian. That it’s genetic. But that’s not the real reason. I grew up with a hidden disability that made learning exponentially harder, so I had to process less information quicker than everyone else. And I always had to watch the target painted on my back at school. It was so bad that I tactically planned out which routes I would take between classes, else a bunch of black guys will jump me (which did happen). My parents never knew.
What most people define as paranoia is normal to me.
My first vehicle I have every driven was a forklift. Not a car.
I worked every summer growing from age 13 up to college. 5 years, in my family’s small retail business operation. I learned to do cash registry work, run sales, fuck shit up with a forklift, etc. Fun summers didn’t exist to me. It was 9 to 5 everyday, go to work, do boring stuff, listen to my dad talk about how hard it is to run a company for the thousandth time. Everyday sucked.
Weekends were no better. My dad’s stress relief hobby after work was “gardening”. In reality, it was landscaping. He wanted to bond with me through this hobby, so I had to do a lot of physical landscaping work growing up. But he is not good at planning things out, so I was on-call every sunday on top of all my school duties.
This isn’t traditional things like mowing the grass, mopping the floor, cleaning your room, etc. Standard chores for kids. This was backbreaking work. Our house had high maintenance tasks, since my dad liked “gardening” so much. Too many trees to count, a DIY pond done wrong many times over, and a pool. Tasks included uprooting tree roots, planting grass, releveling / dirt, washing rocks of all things, laying heavy brick around. Most of these tasks were planned poorly and incorrectly, but all the same I had no say in the matter. One week I would be moving some rocks to one spot, the next week I had to move them back. Rinse repeat. It was hell, for one it was the most pointless and tiring. Sometimes I would think I would be done, take a shower, only to realize my dad’s absurd whimsical standards were not met.
Those days, I had way too much free time to think about things.
I started developing an obsession over two things: 1) Automation, and 2) Documentation.
Automation because I vowed I would never do more bullshit work than I have to. That I would automate all the tedious nonvalue added things in my life. This became a fanatical obsession I had, because of my upbringing.
Documentation, because I was sick of doing landscaping work inefficiently and suffering because of it. Instead, I proved my points with actual research from reliable internet sources. Then get told that I was “wrong”, because I was too “inexperienced” or “young” to understand. Regardless if true or not. Not just from my dad, but my brother too. He would argue that I couldn’t remember things I said or done, as if my input amounted to nothing. To prove my point, I would have logged journal entries. Proof. My older brother would just ignore it and tattle tale to my parents. I was constantly thrown under the bus. Needless to say, I take everything told me to with a grain of salt now.
Again I don’t blame my family for shortcomings in my life. Its just an unfortunate situation I dealt with. I wish someone would have helped, but no one would understand. Including school counsellors, etc. My issues were too difficult to comprehend and explain, especially due to communication barriers from being in a bilingual family.
hobbies and videogames
Because of the everything mentioned above, I couldn’t relate to many in my age group growing up. My childhood was hell to me.
I needed something to do for fun or else I would go probably go insane.
I needed to vent about issues I faced both at school and at home, because no one else would understand
I needed a challenge because school was just boring
Luckily there was something out there – video games and MMORPGs.
I lived a second life growing up in fantasy land. This was the golden era of MMOs and video games, and an exciting time to be born in the dotcom age.
Instead I spent a lot of my life playing MMOs and video games instead. No one cared who and where you came from, and it was really appealing to me. I could do anything I wanted, explore as far as I could go, and there would be nothing holding me back.
When I watched the movie ReadyPlayerOne, a lot of those plotlines actually reminds me of things I experienced in my own life, as ironic as that might sound. I have many untold stories, such as when I crashed the entire gaming MMO economy through an exploit I’ve found, how I used to cheat by modifying my own custom made maps in starcraft in elementary school, and how I used to run my own virtual business(es) , by posting to forums and made real money as a result. Or how I used to write gaming guides read by hundreds of thousands under my pseudonym (and translate in many languages), or how I used to actually be a famous player in a very popular MMO even today. Or how I also partially manage one of the largest online art collaborations ever done in history. Or how I became the richest person in a game of 5million + players, and the hundreds of hours I took to get there. Or how I used to have 5000 loyal followers who treated me like a godfather.
There’s more stories to be told, but I’ll leave it at that. My point is I lived a double life from K-12 and even into college and that’s how I got by. Video games were my form of escapism to keep my sanity in check. I don’t play video games anymore, it just has no appeal to me and only serves to dull the memorable moments I had.
The thing is, nobody I knew in real life would understand these things. Kept it a secret from anyone I knew. Its not that I wanted to – I really wanted to talk about these things – but this was still the golden age of the internet where things were not accepted yet.
When I went to college, it felt like the training wheels just fell off. I had no idea what I truly wanted to do in my life, I just picked a semi interesting engineering degree. I have never really had a mentor growing up, because for one a mentor needs to understand you truly as a person. I never had such a thing. Nobody understood me and it was incredibly painful how much this has hurt me. I could not talk to counsellors about these things, because for one its too difficult to relate to. Its like asking a homeless person to relate to the problems of a CEO (I couldn’t think of a better example). These things just don’t happen.
I started developing psychological issues from high school to college. It stemmed from having never talking about any of the prideful things I did in MMOs growing up. I learned what essentially felt like business degree before even going to college. Already had been working for 5+ years every summer and many weekends before going into college. Also because I grew up learning how a virtual economy worked from the get-go for 4 years, proved I could be the best if I wanted too, taught economics & entreprenuership to guildmates in high school. I had inexplicable gaps of experience. On paper, it said I had no experience in anything. In reality I knew it was different. As a result, I developed superiority complex – where you think your better than everyone else.
I only realize this after ostracizising everywhere that was close to me, and took a good deep look at myself. Only after getting fired from my resident assistant summer job and losing out on 3 internships due to a dual citizenship legal complications. I was extremely sick as well, more sick than I had ever been in 5 years. Not only that, I still had to show up everyday for a whole week despite being fired. It was humiliating getting ignored and stared down by 50+ people everyday. I had severe depression, I was at an all low mentally and physically. The pain struck deep to me and I did think about suicide at this point. But I have always held still to the confidence in myself – by getting inspired what I did in the past. For me, what has always pushed me was myself.
On my senior year at university, everyone would talk about all their great internships they had. Some would get in through family connections, I had no such thing. This bit deep to me, because despite my best efforts, I failed hard. I realized that you can give your best effort and still be a failure, because success is also dependent on luck too.
I doubled down instead. I ended up doing two senior projects instead of one – my dissertation on shape memory alloys, and a corporate project with a fertilizing company. All while building a community of 5000+ gamers from scratch in my spare time during the same year. I didn’t sleep that much senior year.
When I graduated things were not as expected. I still had psychological issues rooted from issues I had growing up as a kid. Pushed it off for the longest time and still I had not met a single person like me in college, despite there being 30,000 people+. I ended up working in a field unrelated to my industry.
Interviewing was something that I could never do. When someone would say “What are you most proud of?”, my first thought process is how , in the community of 5000 people I created, one comment during senior year of college changed my perspective on life. He was grateful for the videos I put out, because it helped him train his motor skills for real life/death situations at work as a surgeon. This was perhaps one of the few times I have ever been truely appreciated in my life for the work I did – and it was humbling. Not only that, it was just so polarizing. Video games and surgery training seemed just so different, everyone called me a flat out liar. Doesn’t matter, it taught me a valuable lesson in life. That there is value in everything, no matter how small it may seem.
I used to get dozens of stupid offers for gaming networks like TGN (one of the largest network at the time), but I only did these things for fun, as a way to vent off the problems I had in school. I got dozens of comments everyday saying “make m0ar videos plz” and dozens of meaningless things that amounted to absolutely nothing. But that one single surgeon comment changed me. It made me appreciate things in life, and to focus only on things that mattered – building things people actually cared about using.
Because this was my interview answer, it turned off a lot of people. I could not explain this rich history to someone who has never played a video game in their life. Leaders are born learning how to run guilds the hard way, bankers are made by learning how to run EvE corporations. But these things are not taken seriously.
I had a canned answer about how I used to be a president of an organization with 10 people under me. Or how I used to manage science fairs. But these things, they were just meaningless to me, a far cry from other things I had done. Because for the accomplishments I took pride in – I did literally everything. I created the community from scratch. I built XYZ and made an impact on someones life. I had tried to give these lesser answers instead – but I just could not, it felt like lying to myself.
A few years back, I decided I needed to get help to move past this point in my life. Because of some social stigmas at the time, I could not see a trained psychologist.
I ended up doing something stupid instead. I once heard stories about lawyers who represented themselves in a court case and won. I thought that this wouldn’t be so far fetched that you could do your own therapy on yourself. There was some research at that time indicating that some neuroscientists or psychologists claim this was possible, but nothing really concrete.
I decided to try it out. I started getting addicted to using reddit just because of how many people’s perspectives I could learn from. Things that I missed out on growing up, that I really didn’t appreciate for its true face value.
I started posting something innocent like how I was going to write a book about some software I was using. But I realized that I kept iterating on older ideas I had, and because my ideas were on paper, it felt like they were speaking out to me. That I could talk back to those ideas. It sounds weird, but its not that much different from how fantasy authors like stephen king work. Its how they build these complex insane worlds that the average user cannot seem to comprehend how they are created.
I would journal things, and because they were on reddit – and that I treated reddit like a public forum – it felt like I was having a conversation with someone. When in retrospect it was really just me talking to myself.
Dug deep into my mind this way. Learning about why I do things the way I did. I would research things in DSM, the psychology manual, read about neuroscience and psychology from books like Richards “Psychology in Plain English” books (which I had read prior to doing this).
Went back and forth everyday, writing an average of 100 WPM, writing upwards of up to 50,000 words a day. More than most writers. I actually wrote so much that I had to go to the doctor for UTS, ulnar tunnel syndrome, because my pinky and ring finger would get so numb. I would write things about research I’ve done, things about my past, things I felt, I just let it all out on a public forum and just replied back to myself every time.
It felt liberating. I started to explore psychology theories and actually starting writing my own theories on how the brain functions on a psychological level. I wrote about all the gaming stories I’ve never told to anyone – and at times reach out to old gaming buddies who I hadn’t spoken to in years. Luckily some of the forums survived so I could find this out.
Started to understand myself, and why I did certain things the way I did. How, I was always on edge and never trusted anyone because that’s just how I did things growing up. How I used to have to dual personalities growing up, because if I did not I would’ve probably gone insane in my situation. How I had many regrets in my childhood not becoming friends with people I should have. How I burned relationships down the road due to my insecurities. How I never told anyone my deepest darkest secrets because I didn’t want to give anyone the burden of that knowledge. How I started developing superiority complex as a result of things I did going from highschool to college.
I accepted myself, truly as who I was, and what I stood for. For me, what has helped me moved on was accepting that I did struggle a lot in life, that I did only have 1 mentor my entire life (my corporate project mentor in senior year). I only thought of him as a mentor since he called me out on my bullshit. Also, that I also did hurt a lot of people who I shouldn’t have, and I was an asshole most of my life. Its never occured to me until I looked so deep down the rabbithole that I found I was just staring at myself.
Ended up deleting everything because I didn’t feel comfortable with that information online. I have a copy of it, it ended up being 500,000 words, I only know this because I ran it through a word count checker.
I still had not told a soul about it though. Its just at this point in time, I’ve just accepted that no one truthfully needs to know. As long as I accept it for what it is, I can move on with my life, doing things that matter. For one, the surgeon’s comment was impactful to me and still stands today in shaping me in who I am today. It seems so stupid and silly that an internet comment had a bigger impact on me than all the school counselors I’ve ever dealt with, but its true.
Only recently, I started going to tech meetups. I hadn’t been sitting on my ass all these years – I’ve been wanting to be the change that I truthfully want to be.
By some miraculous reason, I ended up meeting someone who also has had similar yet different experiences, but could truthfully appreciate the person I am deep down.
The chances of that are almost impossible. I could not think of anyone who would remotely have anything similar to what I experienced growing up. If there was such a person, there might be 1 in a million and I probably would never now about them, even in this day and age of the internet.
But it happened. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but it did. It feels like the stars aligned.
It feels good to finally talk about things I have never told anyone before, and for that person to actually understand, because they have gone through similar things. For the first time in my life – it felt like I was talking to a long lost twin I never knew.
So yeah that’s the story of my life up to this point
All I’ve ever wanted was a normal life and to be understood