Filial Piety

Filial piety is so bizarre.

It’s not the concept that I find bizarre. To be good to your parents, to be respectful towards them – that I completely agree and understand why. But how do you display filial piety? That is the question.

I recently met a friend from the past, we reconnected one random day while bumping into each other on the train and discovered we had so much more in common now than ever before. And both of us have ideas and plans of travelling the world and working in a different country. We shared the same joy for being in a foreign land, and had the same adrenaline rush of overcoming that adaptation barrier.

But being an Asian in a conservative country where filial piety is of utmost importance, we know it breaks our parents’ hearts that we want to get away from our mother land, that we’re not within x kilometres radius from them. If and when we do move away, we won’t be there for them whenever they need it. We can’t be there to take them on weekends just because. We can’t fulfil the Asian idea of being a filial child, taking care of them till they’re old; giving back everything they’ve given to us, which also means sacrificing our hopes and dreams to be with them, like they did for us.

But I constantly wonder if there’re other ways of displaying filial piety.

It doesn’t help that there was recently an article about how an ex-classmate had such thoughts about moving away but she was willing to wait as she had an ailing father. While I congratulated her on an article well written and published, everyone else was complimenting her on being the perfect daughter.

I love my parents, I really do. I appreciate that they’re so amazing. I appreciate that they made do with circumstances and painstakingly brought both my brother and me up. I admired the fact that my dad stayed still in a job for stability to ensure we had everything we needed. My mum stayed home to watch us.

Now, both my brother and I have wings. We have our own ways of thinking. He will soon be married. My future is unplanned and I like that I could go anywhere I wanted to. My parents were a careful balance of strict yet liberal with us, and I guess because of that we could go anywhere and do anything we wanted but we knew how to stay within the boundaries.

When my grandma passed away, my dad told me that he will always want to remain in Singapore, and that he would give me his blessings if I did move away. And while that was all I ever wanted to hear, it pained me to hear that as well.

We were always brought up to consider our parents’ feelings, and to really look deep into what they say. If they said they didn’t mind an issue, were they just being nice? Did they really not mind it? This was one of the cases where I knew that it would pain my dad but he loves me so much that he would rather have me happy elsewhere than stay here for them.

I think I always knew that I would want to be out of this city. I’ve prepped them up when I went away on exchange. I prepped them up when I returned and constantly raved about Europe. I’ve prepped them up when I took up the Skype interview for an internship in New York. I even searched for jobs in UK, France, Germany and Switzerland upon graduation. And I think they got the idea when they found out I was dating a foreigner. I think they got even more certain when I started doing a lot of travels without ‘adults’ (as in parents) or tours.

While I haven’t got a solid plan to leave yet, I know I will eventually regardless of the outcome of my current relationship. It is never about feeling like Singapore is insufficient for me but I’m in love with going through the process of adapting to a foreign city, and it isn’t just for holiday sake.

So now the question is, is there no way of being apart from your parents and still show that you love them? Would moving away mean one isn’t filial? Is this all very selfish?

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