I Used To Be A Fraud

I was born in the midnight of a chilly Tuesday. My mom and dad were already having troubles before I came and even though she was pregnant, this baby couldn’t fix their issues.


As a child, I thought I wasn’t enough to close the rift between my parents and that affected the way I carried myself in the world. Take for instance, I wasn’t naturally book-smart like some kids I knew. I remember getting bad grades at the beginning of school which was another reason to feel inadequate. There was this reward system in my house concerning sschool grades:

You do well? Daddy takes you to the Tantalizers at CMS and fatten you up.

So as a primary school kid, I’d read and study hard. When people say ‘primary school was a breeze’, I can never relate. I worked hard to become smart. I thought it would be enough but no, there’s always something.

I was involved in dance, drama, the jet club, picked up a few after-school lessons, tried my hands at sport, joined some leadership committees; did all these and more to feel enough in the world.

I thought if I was well-rounded, then I would be enough. Then maybe I could fix my family. Help them become like other normal families. And most importantly, fit in the world.

I fought the many variants of dysfunction I faced as I grew because I didn’t want to look like what I had experienced. The battlefield changed after a while. I can’t remember when exactly but when I was a teenager, the war was different. It became more intense and internal.

I had to grow a personality — had to work on my happy ratio, my excitement rate and my giddy potential. I just had to come off as genuinely happy and interested in other people’s life because I didn’t want to spend too much time or energy fixing mine.

My mom said I came out of her with my umblical cord around my neck and it was the easiest birth she had. There’s a name for kids born that way in the West; they are called Aina which means someone who shouldn’t be beaten. I don’t know if it was supposed to be literal or figurative but my mom didn’t really whoop me when I was a kid.

The honest truth is my mom spoilt me. I love her for it. She didn’t let me get my hands in chores and if I said I didn’t want to go somewhere, she usually reasoned with me. She’d beat my elder sisters for me and fight other parents who dared to beat me in her absence. Come to think of it, my dad only ever beat me once…and I have a mark to show for it. It was my fault. I upset the man: I walked away from him as he scolded me. I walked away complaining, grunting and throwing a tantrum (all under my breath) but somehow he heard it. He hit me only two times but there’s a little scar on my right arm to warn me never to do that again.

I worked hard to be good, liked, accepted and even respected.

As the last child, I didn’t think my opinions mattered much (even though some of them were really great ideas). So, I had to grow up fast. I had to rush my mental and emotional develoment even though puberty hadn’t hit yet. I would fill my head with different scenarios of dysfunction or disappointments and prepare myself for how to respond to each of them. When a scenario then happens in real life, I was prepared to choose the high road and act like an ‘adult’ because I already had practice. Adults will say ‘she’s such a mature child’ but I was a con. It wasn’t maturity, it was the burden of inadequacy.

As mentally and emotioanlly liberated as I like to think I am today, I sometimes still pause to ask myself if my ‘good’, or my ‘smart’, if my ‘wholesome’ or ‘great’ is fueling my feeling of inadequacy or it’s really who I am. I triple check to make sure I’m not trying to fill some gap somewhere deep in my soul. I pause to think, wonder and probe.

Other times, I remember I’m an Aina — she who should not be beaten. But I got beat by life’s annoying experiences, traumatic events and the burden of how I was conceived and born. I got so beat I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to lift my head and make something out of my life cos I didn’t want to be a fraud. I was in a fix:

  1. Wasn’t I a fraud if I continue doing all the right things, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s even though they are the right things to do?

2. Wasn’t I a fraud because I built all of the good and the great on the wrong premise?

3. Wasn’t I the biggest of frauds if I stop now and just left my life go into autopilot? Wouldn’t the world know that I am a fraud?