I was one of those kids who went to international school. The amount of money my parents spent on private school could have put me through college twice. My parents were very concerned with giving me privilege when I was small. They projected the best of what they knew on me.

Hong Kong people give themselves a lot of pressure to become something. It's a banking city. You can't have any fun without money and I grew up surrounded by wealth's signifiers. We're not rich but my dad's company subsidized my schooling and also apartment rental so we could live in the city. I found myself  partaking in the most capitalist activities.

I was a busy kid. SAT prep and chemistry and biology tutoring were balanced by evening French classes at the Alliance Francais and tennis lessons after school. Preoccupation was normal. If you weren't smart, you were fit. They made us believe we were the best and better than local students in hong kong. We believed we'd be the best in the world who would eventually be hanging with other best students at other League schools.

The rat race was clear from the start. You would be the superstar of your class, then the superstar of your industry. In addition to 5 specialist subjects students took "personal-social education" classes about safe sex and bullying, theory of knowledge classes for critical thinking, and "international citizenship" classes about the ills of the first and third world.

The ethos of being cool back then was to work hard, and party harder. Brimming with prepubescent boys and immature girls, the clubs were for some reason, the most flagrantly sexual and carnivals places in the city. I saved my lunch money to go to 20 dollar all-you-can-drinks every weekend. My friends and I counted and compared the guys we danced with every weekend. Most of them were gropey and too wet with their kissing but we were proud of being too drunk to care. My ex's friends took turns treating their classmates to private bar parties and daytrips on yachts. I was determined to become a designer. I carried an A3 portfolio around school.

Streamlining happened rigorously; there were 5 levels of math and science classes and 3 for English and chinese.  Worksheets with bibliographies, model answers, and shorthand theories were handed out every lesson. If you did well consistently on a modular test, you would be transferred to the next level.  Failure was not an option. Even if you were bombing school, the school would put you in a vocational business program.

My parents were not thrilled that I wound up in set 5, the second lowest set for math. I cut myself for a few years. My mom scolded me for weeks for scoring Ds on organic chemistry and got me 30 dollar tutoring sessions for a year.  I pulled through with a B+, which is great for most people but terrible for the amount of money spent on both tutoring and tuition. Scholarism is kind of heroic and students with the highest exam scores would appear on local news. No one did what they wanted to do. Cost-benefit-analysis was virtue. You deserve what you pay for if you become better than anyone else.

My boyfriend back then was also busy. On top of taking 8 IB subjects he played in 5 bands and had to do 100 hours of volunteer service and write 60 pages about it to graduate. We had no time (and maybe even less interest) to see each other, except to have sex once a week.

Parents' evenings were held for picking subjects in grade 9 and 11. Predicted grades were discussed during one-on-one meetings, which would happen twice a term with tutors. Career counselling began at 16 and my form was split into prospective international destinations: League schools (US), or Oxbridge (UK). Everyone academically sub-par or not rich enough was going to the best schools in Canada, Australia or New Zealand. Parents were obsessed with checking QS World University rankings to evaluate university prestige. Individual practice-interview sessions were conducted in the final semester. I was nervous at the time, but forget exactly how mine went.

Well-roundedness was compulsory. Students were advised to take up sports or activism  so their CVs wouldn't sound too work-oriented. I joined tennis team and became reserve and  I volunteered to be a peer counsellor for a teen charity. the charity trained us with "empathetic listening" skills and brought us to other schools to give talks on drugs, self help and eating disorders. I designed posters to promote their crisis line and felt kind of good about it.

At highschool reunions success means leaving and returning with riches or becoming someone established elsewhere or in several places. The kids I used to party with when I was sixteen are still clubbing every weekend, except they're certified accountants and lawyers. We're all as travelled but we have nothing to talk about, and there is nothing to talk about without sounding competitive.

I've been a pretty good intern, four times. I keep overcommitting to work for free, but I'm not bored. I started gradschool to stall the job hunt but I no longer want to teach after my masters. I feel impatient. Some people exercise because they feel like it and some people do it to feel good about themselves. It's as if fitness is necessarily self-improving, just as studying is self-enriching or something. People stay busy to feel important, and I am addicted to work.
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