You don’t have a choice.
Your family raised you to be kind and to be generous and to work hard and to never complain.
They raised you to do as you’re told and legitimately that is what you did.
I got to the age where I could begin working and my parents were keen for me to get the experience of what having a job and working looked like.
I was a checkout chick, a barcode swiper, a supermarket cashier for about two seconds. Well it was probably a few weeks but it felt like years.
This was the first time I felt hollow and dead.
I was just a robot.
Turning up shift after shift.
Having pangs of anxiety at the things I didn’t yet know how to do and then a fear of failure if I didn’t get things right?
The manager telling me to stand at the ready in my aisle with a smile on my face. A fake cheesy smile that hurt my face.
I can’t remember exactly why but mum and dad told me I could stop the job for school holidays and then they got a fish and chips shop and asked me to help out in my spare time there instead.
I didn’t baulk. In fact, I felt a huge sigh of relief. I’d rather work with mum and dad who I knew would help me with anything I was unsure of and be better company than my first job.
I watched a young person receiving training on the job today at a cafe. I watched his face as he was learning, taking in all the steps etc. and how there was so much for him to take in.
In the evening we went to a local Malaysian Chinese restaurant and I always pay particular attention especially to family food businesses and their kids who are behind the counter helping their mum and dad.
It just takes me back to what life was like for me way back leading me to wonder what life is like for them.
They want their parents to succeed and do well because their parents fortune becomes their fortune. But not the kind of fortune because they want of very much. The kind of fortune that helps them put food on the table and be able to afford to go to school maybe even University one day.
It can be highly stressful to grow up in a family like this where every single day counts. In other words, if it was a slow day you got worried. You wanted it to be a busy day. Even on the busy days, you weren’t sure. You had to count the dockets and balance the till before you knew for sure. Mum and dad still do this, to this day.
We learnt the best from my grandmother who taught us there would be food on the table and she would spoil us like we were at a restaurant, no matter what. She knew we all worked hard and that was her gift to us. A buffet on the table, where we got excited and looked forward to it arriving to the dinner table.
Friday nights were late night shopping at this eatery where the shop resided. It was a fish and chip shop featuring a handful of Indonesian dishes. I was allowed to buy from another outlet if I so chose to and I did as you became bored of eating the same things.
Sometimes, my aunts would make different meals for us and those were the ones you looked forward to because they weren’t the meals we were selling to customers.
I told my mum and dad we should do the family meals in our restaurant now. We should promote the meals that we would eat. Even my grandmother said today to me that when we eat at home, we don’t eat all of the dishes we would serve at the restaurant. We only have one special dish for dinner not many. I totally got this. She said we have soup, a vegetable dish and a meat dish and rice. That’s it.
But she said something really important. She said she never compromised on the quality of the ingredients. She bought the best quality of meats she could find. When making her dishes for the family she would make the whole days meals by 7am that day - breakfast, lunch and dinner for her six children.
She said when helping to cook for us while we were all at the shop, she would buy at least a kilo of meat to serve the selection of dishes she was going to make for the day.
I came home smelling like a fish and chip shop. I wore a uniform to school and got changed into another uniform for work. I served food to customers and learnt how to build rapport, engage in conversations and build long lasting relationships with them. I learnt how to add up and subtract on the fly, how to program the cash register, how to design promotions, offers and flyers, How best to stack the drinks fridge, how to unpack and stack all the cutlery and plate ware.
Soon after this, mum and dad got another business but this time a restaurant in the heart of the city. I learnt about good communication with the people who worked with and for us and I learnt about the power of word of mouth, and the importance of a supportive landlord. Oh and boy did I learn about prioritising.
All the while I was in year 10, 11 and 12 and also off to university, but when I came back during the holidays, I worked full time for mum and dad. I didn’t have a holiday. Going to university was my holiday even though I also worked three jobs while at university.
Thinking back about all I learnt, I am grateful for everything but I have to be very careful of how I promote the opportunities that are out there now for my children and not say when you get a job or you have to get a job. When you’re an entrepreneur or when you have you’re own business can also be stifling. When you decide what you’re most passionate about and then pursue it. When you creatively design your future?
When you’re ready to discover your own journey through leveraging all your individual skills and talents. What are your unique gifts? When you find out what your special gifts are, that is when you pursue those. It’s not just one thing either, it’s many things!
I also learnt that although I didn’t have a choice at the time, I have a choice now. I can choose to leverage and use all that I have learnt from each and every single one of my past experiences to create how I want to live my life today. I’ve been more alive pursuing my passion and my purpose in life which is to honour the legacy of my grandparents and my family of shopkeepers.
Hi my name is Angela. I have loved writing since I was able to hold a pencil in my hand. I soon learnt I had a gift of connecting with my ancestors through writing before my 30th birthday.