I got angry in a lecture. It was weird. It was strange for me to display emotion like this publicly with people I had never met before. It was building through the day, maybe through the year, maybe for a few years, but it came out. In some ways, I regretted — showing a more vulnerable side of myself in a public form; in other ways, I didn’t. It helped me to understand and renew my purpose for taking this course — to understand emotions that have been foreign to me for a long time.
I am a 50-year-old man raised in the 1970s — 1980s in a suburban village north of Toronto, Ontario. My childhood feels like a mixture of secure and avoidant-dismissive attachment. My family was tight. My mother provided me with the environment to ensure I could make mistakes and learn from them. She was supportive and asked me to do things as a child independently. She was always around and supportive but gave me room to fall. I would learn many years later she had postpartum depression when she had my older brother in 1969. It was a different time. She said she was different in raising me than my brother. She mentioned how my brother ‘came out angry.’ I understand the difference through the attachment theory as early in life, I had a more secure attachment, while my brother had a more Disorganized Attachment due to childhood trauma.
When I went to school, I was different — being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in 1978, where I repeated grade 1 (P1) and then placed in a special school for those with mental health issues. Throughout my school life, it was more of an insecure attachment style since I went to a school 30 km away from my village. It continued for two years, but I was determined to escape it since I ‘wasn’t as bad as those kids.’ From grade 1 to grade 12, I went to 3 primary and three secondary schools. I was placed in remedial classes in regular schools since I couldn’t read — d/b, g/q, forming S/5. Even now, reading a book takes about a month and a half as I get lost halfway through some sentences and forget what it was about. I could remember conversations. If you tell me something and I write it down with a pen and paper — I can memorize it. I barely passed exams and tests. My drive was to be ‘normal’ without the remedial classes, and I gradually accepted how I couldn’t do math (1+1=5), I couldn’t do grammar, but computers and word processors could. My understanding was my attention deficit disorder was something I could grow out of — I learned in 2012 how wrong I was.
There was some insecure attachment throughout this process as I would move from school to school, teacher to teacher, and friends would come and go. I have no primary or secondary school friends to this day. It is a pattern that would continue throughout my work, with constant change in friends, relationships, and work environments.
It all changed in 2012 when I fell in love. Initially, there were issues since he couldn’t sense my emotions. He called me primarily cold because there were no reactions to many things he shared. I think it would be only a matter of time before he left, maybe a week or two later. He didn’t. We talked more, and I realized how I have been suppressing emotions. I sought help and understood how I was reacting. We were together for eight years before he left in 2020 for America. The past two years have been challenging as more and more friends have left. When he left, I changed jobs from a small school to a huge one. I moved from Tai Po to Kam Tin. It is what I did before distracting through constant change; however, the results haven’t improved. My social network shrank as more of my friends left Hong Kong.
The anger I displayed in class feels more like a reaction to an isolation/abandonment or pain I wish not to return to. When I got my MA in Journalism at HKU in 2017, a third of the class was comfortable speaking English since they were from overseas. Like with this MA, I took my time going three years instead of two, but there were always people who felt more comfortable speaking English. At work, 90% of my conversations are with those under 12 years old since the student population comprises ethnic minorities from lower socio-economic backgrounds. When I enter the lecture, the class conversations are in Cantonese, with most students saying, “I am sorry, but my English is not that good.”