Love

You never think about how you navigate love until it becomes clear to you and everyone around you that you have no idea what you’re doing. Families are those people who blur the lines between love, hate, hurt, understanding, and anger into almost nothing.

I never thought I’d have to dissect the concept of love this much. My parents were on-and-off content with each other and their marriage; after relatively peaceful periods of calm, it would erupt. They’d scream at each other, threaten each other, insult each other. They did it to my siblings and I too. We’d just watch helplessly, flinching at the sound of a raised voice. Eventually my siblings and I did that to each other, and when we got older, we screamed right back at our parents. There wasn’t a lot of love, there was a lot of noise.

When my siblings and I were young, we’d also observe the icy relationships between our parents and their siblings. We also felt that something was missing — a cousin, an aunt, even a caring grandparent. There was no friendly adult to turn to. There was no supportive older cousin to confide in. We didn’t have those things for a very long time. Everyone was estranged, it seemed, leaving us suffocated and isolated in our own personal hell. We turned on each other, though we didn’t mean to. 

Now, it’s hard for me to even be around my siblings. Especially both of them at once. There was a time, when we were young, where we’d cling to each other. As children, and even for the first year or so when my sister and I were in university and my brother was still in high school, we were kind to each other, we would help each other to survive in any way we could. We thought it would last forever, and naively swear that we’d never end up like our parents, we’d never let ourselves become estranged. But reality is cruel and it doesn’t care about intentions.

Somewhere down the line, at some point in time, we became bitter towards each other. Ever since my sister and I reckoned with our own years and years of boiling differences, we’ve all drifted further and further apart, and fights became almost fateful. What happened? What about the unity we clung to so tightly before? We needed to be loved. We wanted our parents to love us properly, and we sold each other out for a glimpse of it.

 I want to know why we’re programmed to fight, to compete. I want to know why it’s necessary for us to let the other know that they’re not special or important in any way. We use meanness and humiliation to hurt each other. We no longer have a pact, a bond. We’ve always only been loyal to ourselves, and that’s the truth of it; siblings fall out after childhood if the bond is missing. If the love is so inconvenient and insignificant and buried, sometimes it’s never unearthed again once leaving innocence. We needed to forge ahead on our own when surviving at home became more of an option than a necessity, and as we diverged on our own paths, we viewed each other as optional. We needed to put ourselves first. 

We always must let the other know I’m not doing this for you, I’m not helping you with that, I’m not extending kindness to you. Because then where’s the reward? We want to be paid a price. We want to put our good deeds in the bank and deny all the bad ones even happened. My roommate laments growing up as an only child and I do empathize but sometimes I think what’s the point of having a big family? If no one in it loves each other? Surely there’s less pain in not knowing what you may have rather than having something rotten.

Every conversation is laced with a sour subtext. There’s an air of resentment, disagreement, impatience. There are rolled eyes and frustrated “whatever’s” and snide comments and indifference. It’s almost unbearable because it feels as though guarding your heart fully is better than all moments of happiness being tainted. 

My other roommate Maria* has a brother, *Gary, who’s eight years older than her, and a sister who’s two years younger. Their parents didn’t exactly nurture them, and as a result, Maria and Gary left Florida for Canada soon after they finished highschool. Because her brother was so much older, Maria didn’t see him for years until she came to Canada. When she arrived and was trying to get on her feet, Gary housed her for six months, in the apartment he shares with a friend. When we’re both home, she spends hours on end talking to her sister over Facetime, telling her how excited she and Gary are for her to come too. 

I remember when I was in grade eight or nine, and I went to my friend’s house for the first time. She was the sixth child of ten, and I had never been in an environment like that. There were adults, teenagers of all ages, kids and little kids, all together sprawled around the living room and kitchen. They seemed so easy with each other; fights were quickly dispelled with laughter, there was no needless meanness, one sibling would ask the other to do or get something and they’d just do it, instead of trying to bargain or flat out saying no. I realized that not all siblings hated each other. I wanted that. 

I just want us to have each other’s backs. Even if we’re not that close, even if we’re not a part of each other’s lives, I want to know that I can call them anytime, anywhere, for anything. And believe that they’ll be there, happily, no matter what the situation is, because it’s me. 

Of course we love each other. That stuff is a marrow. You can’t help it or get rid of it. It’s just there. 

But the repressed resentment and anger and hurt and layer of jealousy and competition is bursting at the seams. It spills out of us in unexpected swells of emotion. It permeates our interactions, even the positive ones. Childhood haunts you. Your parents and their parenting only lasts a decade and a bit, but it never leaves you. Those formative years are defining. Of course, you can change, you can seek to be better. But sometimes I ask myself, why should I have to? I didn’t do this! Why am I paying the price? 

Love is not this esoteric thing. Love is unexplainable much of the time, but it’s really not that complicated. Love is just love; it’s not respect, happiness, bliss, or pain. It just is, and that’s why it makes us all crazy. If you don’t learn what it’s like to love and be loved normally, navigating it in all aspects of your life as anything other than a scared child is like trying to fly a plane with no knowledge of how they work. There’s too many mechanisms, too many things you need to understand before you even begin to understand the concept as a whole. And if you somehow manage to take off, you’ll most likely crash and burn. 

That’s why my siblings and I need each other. We are all living our own lives, we all have goals and interests that are as different as each of us. But we are trying to move forward as adults who have a warped understanding of love, and we project it onto everyone we meet. We’ve recently realized that we need to come together to fight this, to overcome it, so that we might be successful in our independent lives, but also so that there is a renewed love between us as well. If we could get each other through before, we can again. This time for good. 

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.

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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.

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