Learn your own way

by - December 05, 2022

Someone at work asked me if my parents were strict growing up as Asian parents are known to be. It got me thinking. They were both the youngest of 10 children so by the time they were going through childhood their parents would have been less strict. Mum wasn't strict in most ways, but she was dead set on getting school educated.

Mum Pham was the book smart parent. She was studious and disciplined, and a qualified pharmacist (though the communists wouldn't give her a degree because she refused to serve in their army). Growing up all the pressure to study and go to university came from Mum. Dad Pham? Not so much for formal education. He once got in trouble with my Aunty when he suggested our cousin (her son) may be better off doing a trade. She was so outraged by the notion, she didn't talk to Dad for half a year.

I never really thought about why Dad Pham was so much more relaxed about education than Mum and most other Asian parents. That is, until one day, in one of his reflective moods he told me about how he failed forward into the navy.

At school, he ranked 130-something out of 134 for language. He gave so few shits, he didn't bother to remember exactly how low he scored. Now, Dad is not a dumbass by any means. He is actually more intelligent, calculating and strategic than Mum Pham in most ways. But he was too smart for formal education - because it was too easy for him, he got bored. Big Brother Pham would one day follow in Dad's footsteps - he was too smart for boring bookish study.

Dad joined the navy because he didn't have many other options. In the navy, with all the hands-on practical training and studies, Dad actually ranked 24, which was pretty high up there. His own life experience is why he's open to children doing trades or anything hands-on. Books aren't for everyone. Though, books turned out to be for me; they were definitely not for Big Brother Pham. Little Sissy Pham was somewhere in between - I think she'd have excelled at a sport if we could afford sport, but instead being poor forced her down the study route.

Even though I am a book nerd, I believe you should learn life your own way. Whatever suits your interests and skills is what you should pursue. Otherwise, you either won't be happy or won't excel in what you do... or both. 

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