I wrote an email to my father a couple of weeks ago, in response to him asking me for advice. I think that was the first time he ever explicitly asked me for advice. I mean, he wasn’t just asking me to do something, or asking me to explain something to him– he was asking me for what I thought about something. It was a question about work– more specifically, about stress.
My answer was that there are two kinds of stress– good stress and bad stress. Good stress is the kind of stuff that challenges you and gives you a chance to be a better person in some way. I mean, it lets you develop a skill or a character trait or something so that at the end of the day, you’ll be more of a man or woman than you were when you woke up. On the other hand, bad stress is the sort of stress that doesn’t really have any point– it just makes you feel bad, nervous, and powerless. Distinguishing between what kind of stress you’re dealing with will determine whether or not you should persevere, or say “fuck this shit” and get out before it hurts you.
He was asking me because he recently came out of retirement. I think part of it is that he feels that he should be earning some money when the family is taking out loans to pay off my law schooling– although in reality, he knows that with my mom’s salary, the family earns roughly the same after taxes whether he works or not. His initial problem was that, at his new job at a bike shop as a mechanic, he was having a bit of a hard time getting adjusted. The person who is showing him the ropes only speaks Spanish and French. I never realised it before, but my dad is pretty unsecure about himself when it comes to certain situations– he’s a real perfectionist, so in areas where he knows what he’s doing, he’ll want to get every detail just right. The problem? Is that when it comes to learning something new, he feels discouraged easily when he can’t get it right from the bat.
Anyway, I told him to figure out which kind of stress he was dealing with, because he was thinking about quitting. In the end, he decided that what he was feeling was good stress– at his age, it was good to be challenging himself and finding something to do outside of the house. And I’m glad for that.
I think that as I was growing up, I was so busy dealing with the stress of growing up that I never noticed really the kind of stress that my parents went through to raise me. Nowadays, I find myself trying to shoulder more and more of the family concerns, even if that means trying to find roundabout ways to do things just because I’m halfway across the world from them.
The distance, though, helps me see things in a new light– in a sense, before, I was focusing on trees and not seeing the forest. In a lot of ways, being in Australia has made me learn a lot about my parents, and how I am a product of their teachings– it has also let me learn a lot about myself and the reasons why I am the way I am.
Despite giving my dad advice about stress, I find that it’s an easy observation to make– but it’s difficult to always make the right choices. For example, despite knowing what kinds of stress [CM] and I are going through, there are situations where we’re just undergoing bad stress due to school, but it’s unavoidable– we can’t quit. You might argue that schooling is good in the long run, and I agree– but at the same time, there are pragmatically situations where the administration of the schooling process is simply abusive towards students in ways that serve no purpose. These are situations that are attached to the status of being in school that do not make us better people, they just demoralise and degrade us. This is an institutional problem, I think– and in this sort of situation, the only real way of us dealing with it is to endure it and to get it all over with as soon as possible, and do damage control.