“Well who do you want to be?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then think of someone fictional or real, and describe traits you like in them.” She took out a notepad.
I said who came immediately to my mind. “Lily’s dad.”
“And what about him do you want to be like?”
“He was just this completely selfless guy. I try to be that. I’m obviously not that… He was loving and giving. He always looked after others. He was playful. He’d sing their names in Cantonese and I always thought it was the cutest thing. He was sociable and easy to be around… He was driven and tireless when it came to helping his family… Even when he was driven by ego, it was about helping his son being a happier person.” Something stirred in me. I looked away, but I couldn’t stop it. The tears came. It was the first time I cried in therapy.
“I miss him. I miss all of them…”
“Alan, I believe you already embody these qualities.” She showed me her notes: Driven, Family Man, Playful and gentle, selfless and loving… I didn’t look at the rest. I just turned away.
“I think so… That’s the part Lily loved about me. It’s just… everyone in my family attacked me for having those qualities. So I learned to be something else. Something I didn’t recognize when I got angry. But Lily and her family, they took me in. And I gave them all up. For what? For this? For my shitty family? To become someone better? I know it was the right thing to do. It was supposed to happen, but why is it so difficult still? I thought I was doing everything right.”
We ended the session a little later than usual. She offered me the paper with his characteristics on them, but when I held it I couldn’t stop crying. It was like I was near them again. We stood outside and she grounded me. It reminded me of how Lily tried to ground me. I smiled.
“Who do you want to be? Do you want to be what people expect you to be? Or do you want to be who you are?” This question burned in my head for the last 24 hrs. Happy birthday to me…