I’d like to think of myself as creative, and so I don’t necessarily like to follow convention. I know it must be hard for some of my childhood friends to think of me as being very creative, because when I was a kid, I was the kind of quiet, obedient girl who always follows the rules. But that was just my “cover.” Deep down, I’ve always known that I have the urge to be different. This was most obvious in my writing assignments at school.
Since I was the obedient type at school, my teachers liked to call upon me when they needed someone to answer a question. They knew they could count on me. During composition class, my teachers would ask me to tell the class what I would write about for a certain topic. This had been both a challenge and a satisfaction for me. I would secretly come up with 2 answers – a public answer to satisfy the class’ need, and a private answer to use in my assignment.
So why did I need 2 answers? Because I knew that the public answer would usually be copied by some of my classmates. And I wanted to be different. I didn’t want my assignments to look like any of my classmates’. My challenge was to think of an okay answer for the class (you see, if I kept handing out substandard answers, I’d eventually lose my credibility as a “good” student), and then a better answer for my own assignments in order to maintain my grades, and, more importantly, satisfaction of being different.
This dirty little secret of mine went on for a few years. As I got into secondary school (for my American friends, secondary school in Hong Kong is the equivalent of middle & high school in the U.S.), I came clean. I felt there was no need to hide my appetite for the unconventional anymore, and that it was okay if I’m not the typical, obedient student that everyone believed I was. Not that I turned into a rebel, but I finally came to terms with myself. I did not need to use these tricks in my composition class to show that I was different.
But how our minds work! As my liking for the conventional lessened, my respect for conventional wisdom grew stronger. I started to appreciate seemingly unscientific remedies that my mom told me about. All of a sudden, bathing in rock sugar solution to soothe itchy skin didn’t seem so ridiculous any more. Now, I even make it a habit to ask my mom for conventional wisdom if I need help in certain things.
Becoming a parent probably prompted at least some of this. I hope when my son gets older, I would be able to pass onto him some conventional wisdom that I learned from my mom.