Chinese culture is heavily based on the teachings of one famous scholar: Confucius.
Although the Chinese philosopher died long ago, in 479 BC, his teachings were so prevalent that they are taught and practiced to this day, even by the East Asian diaspora across the world.
You may be familiar with some of the things he taught: benevolence, reciprocity, filial piety, and hard work.
Confucius strongly believed that hard work was essential to being a contributing member of society. In fact, one of his most famous quotes is “It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.”
As someone from a Chinese immigrant background, this attitude of hard work is all too familiar.
As a child, I watched my grandparents work themselves to the bone to provide a living, and following this cycle, I watched my parents do the same. Now that they have reached a certain age, it is heartbreaking to see their health catch up with them.
Even in their retirement years, it’s difficult for them to get the rest they deserve.
I was always keenly aware of the sacrifices they made for me and my brother. Every year, my parents would pay my school tuition and tell me all the things they could have bought with that money, like a car or a nice holiday.
Meanwhile, they were relentless in their work and gave everything they had for their children.
Looking back, I’m extremely grateful for their hard work, but I also can’t help but think: what if they hadn’t worked so hard?
As retirees, my parents don’t have hobbies, nor do they really pursue the things they didn’t have the opportunities for in the past. In hindsight, I now wish they hadn’t worked so hard. While it provided many opportunities for my brother and me, it also caused my parents to lose themselves along the way.
Even though they should now be able to enjoy their lives, they don’t know how . If they hadn’t worked so hard, they could have spent more time pursuing hobbies and relaxing.
In Chinese culture, we tend to praise hard workers and are quick to criticize those who are perceived as lazy. But the reality is that a fine balance is needed; after all, what’s the point of working so hard if you cannot reap the benefits of your efforts? It’s not lazy or shameful to take a break or experience some personal enjoyment.
I’m sure Confucius would disapprove of me, but I would only tell him: “It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you go at your own pace.”