From Zoology to Art

When I graduated secondary school, I enrolled into a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne hoping to become a veterinarian. It’s been 8 years now and I am currently living in London, am working on holding an art show in Berlin, whilst pursuing some projects in underground electronic music in London, Shanghai and Paris. Believe me, I don’t even really know how I ended up where I am today. It has all been somewhat strange. My parents migrated to Australia from China to pursue the “Australian Dream”. They hoped that if I got a good education, I would be able to have a good career, buy a nice big house and live comfortably for the rest of my life. They hoped that I would pursue medicine so I could help people whilst earning enough money to never have the same financial issues they had. My mum would even drive me around the wealthier neighbourhoods as a child to show me the lifestyle I could have if I worked hard. Growing up, I knew I could work towards what my parents wanted me to do but deep down, I knew I didn’t want it. I was raised in quite a militant environment. I came from a lower working class family, my parents earned minimum wage jobs and could barely string a sentence of English together. They imposed a strict routine onto me of swimming, piano and academics. The financial pressure it caused them to pay for those lessons meant that there was never any room for me to make a mistake. In their eyes, those activities were a careful investment so that I could get a scholarship to a private school and therefore a better chance at getting into the best universities in Australia. My parents plan worked, I was an excellent pianist, a wonderful swimmer and one of the brightest pupils in my class. For years I was the golden child of the family, the future, the one to bring my family line into the elite upper class. My friends, my peers, my extended family all thought I was happy to be thriving as this super child that listened to everything her parents said for her to do. But how happy could you be when your parents got you a piano teacher that would bruise your arm with a stick if you made a mistake. Or a swimming coach that pushed you to the point where you would vomit during training. Or the pressure of succeeding academically that one bad mark meant I cried for hours at school because I was too afraid to go home and face my parents. Due to the immense amount of pressure I had, I enrolled into the best institution in Australia to pursue a form of medicine. I still remember my first day of university, I was filled with nothing but dread. Dread that I was stuck in a course, doing something I didn’t even want to do for the sake of my parents who by that age, I just resented. My mental health had begun to take its toll when I was around 14 but I managed to push through. Eventually it did get the better of me. I moved away from my parents under the guise of needing to be closer to University during my second year but it was purely for the freedom to never go to class, to never show up to any university events and to generally avoid the whole experience all together. It took me 4 years to finish a 3 year Bachelor of Science with a major in Zoology. I failed multiple subjects, was sent to the board of directors twice to explain my poor results and reduced to tears in front of them each time begging them to let me continue. I only wanted to continue for my parents. As much as i resented them, I knew they would’ve been furious if I dropped out. All the years of tutoring, piano lessons, swimming training, I decided to complete my degree to apease them. Graduation rolled around soon enough and I remember sitting there in my ridiculously over the top black gown, waiting for my turn to shake the Deans hand so I could duck out for a cigarette. I remember seeing my mother beaming at me through the crowd whilst I sheepishly smiled back at her. I knew she was proud of me. She now could tell the whole family that her daughter had a Science degree from the best university in Australia. She could say that I was potentially destined for some groundbreaking research. To her, the world was my oyster and I was ready to succeed.  After graduation, I sat on the couch for 6 months doing absolutely nothing with my life. I declined all my offers into Masters programs because I knew they weren’t going to fill the void inside me. So how did I end up in London? It started with me working for a club night in Melbourne that I used to frequent during my University days. I knew the guys that ran it and they invited me to work with them. Through that I discovered a passion for electronic music. During the week, I worked in a call centre for a grocery delivery company and that job made me feel so incredibly hopeless that it motivated me to move to Europe. I impulsively chose a small French city to work as a Nanny in as I thought the change would be refreshing. I got so incredibly bored in that city that I decided to pick up my old creative pursuits which my parents forcibly stamped out as a teenager and replaced with maths textbooks. I started drawing again, I started writing too, I started taking my passion for electronic music a lot more seriously. Eventually my time in France finished up and on a whim I decided to move to London. In London and through my travels in Europe, I have met a lot of creative people. I’ve networked with artists, musicians, loads of other creatives. All of them inspire me to pursue a future as a creative. They’re all incredibly supportive and have given me the confidence and opportunities to pursue my ideas on artworks or music. To be completely honest, I literally have no idea what I’m doing with my life. My parents still contact me on a regular basis to scold me over my life choices and remind me that “I’m wasting my life”. I don’t feel particularly brave doing what I’m doing but looking back on the childhood I had, I am proud of myself from turning it all away. I don’t know where I’ll end up in a year but for once in my life, I know I’m excited and I know I’m happy.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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