A Brief History of My Childhood

July 25, 2021

My life story naturally begins with my mother, without whom I wouldn't exist or be writing this post. Before my birth, I had no awareness of the world around me. According to my mother, I was more of an accident than a planned child—a claim likely supported by the fact that I'm an only child and none of my aunts have children either. My mother could have chosen to abort me, but she decided against it, valuing life as a miracle. Born on July 31st, I was lucky enough to survive infancy. My early memories are vague, but some of my mother's sayings, like "money isn't everything, but everything needs money," have stuck with me. As an accountant, she values her education and problem-solving skills. She attributes my intelligence to her genetic contribution, discounting my father's role. While she doesn't hold a formal university degree, I regard her as a smart person.

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When I was just a few years old, my maternal grandfather passed away from lung cancer. He was a great cook and had a vibrant personality, but he was also a heavy smoker. Despite health warnings, he chose to continue smoking, stating that he'd rather die young than give up the habit. Although I wish he had made different choices, I respect his approach to life: valuing personal happiness, even at the risk of one's health.

I owe much to my parents. While my intelligence might come from my mother, my father likely contributed to my physical appearance. I consider myself fortunate to have a blend of both. My mother disciplined me more strictly, often using a clothes hanger, while my father was generally more lenient. His only strict rule was regarding internet usage: he'd turn off the router at midnight to discourage my late-night browsing. My father's interests in computer games and electrical engineering shaped my own passion for technology, contributing to my current career as a software engineer.

During my primary school years, Pokémon was all the rage. Ironically, I never watched a single episode, making it difficult for me to socialize with peers who were fans of the show. Instead of joining conversations about Pokémon, I volunteered as a librarian and spent my free time reading. Chinese history fascinated me, especially the tales of ancient heroes. Sometimes, I'd daydream about being a wise advisor to an emperor, leading the nation to prosperity.

My primary school was Catholic, and we prayed daily. Though the experience didn't convert me to Catholicism, it did teach me the value of kindness. The school was located near my home and was attended by students from a variety of backgrounds, some from lower-income households. Our teachers advised us to avoid trouble, especially given the reputation of the neighboring secondary school.

Socially, I was a shy kid, brilliant academically but reserved in person. As a result, my closest friends were often other unpopular or bullied students. One of my best friends had been born prematurely, and his physical frailty made him a target for bullies—a situation I found deeply unfair.

Among my school memories, one that stands out is my fear of Mrs. Chan, a P.E. teacher known for her excessive makeup and overpowering perfume. Her mere scent could instill fear. On one occasion, I was unfairly punished for supposedly using hair gel, when I had only used water to style my hair. Instances like these made me equate school more to a prison than a place of learning, and I often wondered if a different educational system would have served me better.

Looking back, I've come to realize that the formative years of my life were a blend of blessings and challenges. Despite the ups and downs, I am grateful for the experiences that have shaped me into who I am today.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn