I have many things in my mind about what to write; I was essentially pondering over what topic I should touch on today. With the goal of writing everyday, I stared into the blank, searching my mind over what to touch on.
My nephew’s upbringing that we adults – or rather, his parents – have to pay attention to? Nah… too sticky.
Religions and my thoughts? Not really an option, unless tomorrow’s the end of the world.
Public behavior of humans? Perhaps not today.
I sat my ass down in a neighbourhood coffeeshop just as my left and right brainy were discussing about this, when I got myself breakfast consisting of some food and a coffee. I don’t usually like the idea of taking out my books to read in public, especially not in the coffeeshop. No thanks to the no-reading culture of my homeland (yeah, perhaps another story for another time). I whipped out my phone and scrolled through the local news, trying to pull my brains away from each other before they got into a fistfight. Then I came across this article, about a 22 year old lady with a bachelor’s degree, who is in love with a chicken rice seller who’s 10 years her senior. That news caught my attention, and my thoughts. 10 years’ gap and the life of being a hawker’s wife? Thought-provoking enough for me.
I’m not being cynical. But let us first look at what was reported. The lady once studied in a top secondary school. With a degree in hospitality and tourism already in her hands, and 6 months before she get her honours, she chose to defer the final leg of her university study in order to fulfill her dream to be Mrs Chicken Rice. She even – according to the report – moved into her fiance’s (now, I’m thinking why getting engaged this young? She’s only 22.) 3-room flat to stay with her future husband and in-laws.
Let’s leave out the looks (but damn, she’s pretty) for now. These are not the crucial facets of a relationship.
As much as I love to see them together happily ever after, I am not very optimistic in this combination. The reporter who reported their news, wrote her thoughts in a separate article following her interview with them. In her later post, she wrote:
“What will my friends think? Will we be able to click? Will he be able to provide for me, should I choose to stay home and take care of kids one day? These are not flippant gripes…I struggle to imagine that a waiter, electrician, security guard or plumber will fit the mould…But I grew up conditioned to believe that the path to success and financial security follows years of slogging in school followed by a degree and a good job in a posh office. Not it sweating out with my spouse in a hawker centre.”
The reporter understands very well how she will choose slogging in a posh office for her boss over sweating in a hawker centre with her spouse. Perhaps what she doesn’t quite understand is the word “spouse”. Sorry, girl. You may have the degree, and you may have the ideal job that you think your friends will envy you for (but think again, you’re in the mainstream media. The very media channel that the public is growing to hate fast), and you may think that you are on your way to success and financial security because you are having a good job. If what you have written was genuinely your thoughts, I have to say that you a) don’t understand love, and b) don’t understand success and financial security.
But the reporter is not the subject of my post today, so I’m going to let her off with a warning from my brain this time.
Back to Mrs Chicken-Rice-to-be.
The lady is still very young. By very young, I mean 22-years-old-young. When I – let me talk about myself a little, because I haven’t had the privilege to live the lives of others – was 22, I was ambitious. I thought life was a walk in the park, with birds chirping and flowers blooming. There were no seasons in my eyes, for literally, it’s summer all year round in Singapore. I closed the chapter of my National Service life, and opened a new chapter about me embarking into my adulthood planning for careers and shit. But let us face it: reality is cruel. The world is not about what you want or what you know, but what you have for everyone around you. Including your partner, family, buddies and coworkers.
What can you provide for your partner, other than showing your love through talking, actions, and the organ between your thighs?
What can you do for your aging parents, other than just saying that they can count on you when they retire? Bear in mind most parents, at the time when their kid(s) is at age 22, are still not eyeing retirement as their short-term goal yet. So what’s is it that you have for them?
What can you do for your buddies, other than your jokes and your companionship, your wallet and your sense of brotherhood/sisterhood?
What can you do for your coworkers, other than helping them with their lack of productivity, IT knowledge and being the targetboard for their sense of denial (read: office politics)?
The world is cruel. Using a quote by Rocky Balboa:
“The world ain’t sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take, and keep moving forward.”
Where will you be, when life hits you hard in the face?
Now, I’m not talking about motivation in life. I’m talking about staying motivated as you walk on the nasty journey hand-in-hand with your partner. Of course, you can tweak your perspectives so that you can live happier, tackle issues with better focus and confidence. But that does not bury the fact that the world is waiting for you to contribute, or you shall fall hard when you failed to. And this lemon vendor is not going to lend you a helping hand.
The world is a cruel place full of cynics, temptations and comparisons. As much as she tries to convince everyone that love conquers all, she has to know that there’ll be these obstacles ahead of her/them.
I’ve seen this a lot. It happens everywhere I go, maybe because I’m not exactly a carrier of good luck. But I’ve seen this more than I could care to count, and this is definitely something that we can’t ignore.
In the years ahead, people will change; our minds will change, so will our priorities. One example I can share is what happened to a friend of mine, who is 2 years my junior in age. Being someone who isn’t into studying, he dropped out of school at the age of 15. From then, before seeing himself getting called up for National Service, which would be coming when he reached 18, he went to work in an electrical company as an apprentice, and worked his way to become a full-fledged electrician just before he shaved his head to be a recruit with the Singapore Army.
Upon his completion of his NS, he went on to work several jobs until he settled on the one that he has been working for few years now. Years of hard work and job-hopping ensued, and he now finds himself taking up the position of a supervisor for a small maintenance company. His daily job now is more into managing the workers working under him and deploying them to sites based on their daily operations’ needs. Let us agree that in some way, his perseverance bore him some results in his career.
Then he got engaged to the girl of his dreams. This girl fitted the right description of an “educated girl planning a future with a blue-collar worker”. She has a diploma in I-don’t-know-what, and at the time of their engagement, she was taking her degree in I-still-don’t-know-what (I’ll be damn if I were to know so much about a woman who’s not mine to begin with.). Her fiancé, my friend, was still at the same stage that I had mentioned earlier (essentially, he’s still at the same stage now), managing electricians and deploying them around the island (in case you don’t know, Singapore’s an island).
In order to give the woman he loved the day of her life, he, although he couldn’t afford it because his salary was mediocre to start with, took a wedding loan from his boss (on the other side, he has a good boss) so that he could give his wife-to-be the day that she would look back and not regret.
Sadness kicked in when she filed for a divorce just 3 months after their wedding. Her reasons were:
a) My friend, being the non-scholarly type, wasn’t interested in going back to school anytime soon, or rather, in his lifetime. His lack of ambitiousness was starting to put her off.
b) She wanted a better life, and she felt that given the career prospect of an electrician in a country like Singapore, good life is something that she’ll not see if she were to stay in the marriage with him.
c) They couldn’t communicate.
Then why get together in the first place? I mean, if he wasn’t the guy for her, why would she agree to even date him?
The puzzles pieced together a bigger picture when I realized that when she first got to know my friend, and starting dating him, she was a graduate from a technical school. While I am not sure what was she working as prior to her current job, I do know that she’s now working in an office environment, where people communicate with emails instead of their mouths, and report for work in shirts and ties for men, and dresses or skirts for ladies (actually, ladies have so many types of attire that I’m too lazy to list the examples.). Basically she’s now holding a good job in a posh office – the ideal life as described by the reporter.
There’s this mindset shift that took place in her case, and in the event that no one notices this, mindset shifts occur very frequently in everyone. Have you realize how you have started to accept something, like…I don’t know, peanut butter, when you used to hate it when you were a kid? Or the gradual friendship with that someone whom you’d never thought you’d have, because he/she was a douche when you first heard/seen/met him/her for the first time?
This is not uncommon. In the case of my friend, his ex-wife (yeah, they got divorced in the end) did not have the expectations of the man she wanted when she first got together with him, and even when they got nearer to their wedding date. Even though she was getting unsure, she went ahead in walking down the aisle, only to make up her mind eventually in escaping from this world that would be – if she allowed it to – her permanent life.
So what causes the changes she had? Let’s talk a little about it:
The people around us change (not clothes) faster than you can dress yourself up after a night of hot sex. In case you haven’t notice, take a look at the people around you. What do you see?
The flirtatious girl who once hid under heavy make-ups and was making out with plenty of guys in her mini skirt every Saturday evening might now be the busy woman who’s running around making milk and changing the diapers of her newborn.
The man who slept around with countless women in his “glorious” days might be the henpeck guy who withdraws himself at home, because of his love (I’ll say, that’s fear out of love) for his wife at home.
The nice neighbour who once shared food and cookies with you is now a douchebag, because he just stroke the first prize in lottery, winning himself a millionaire status and deeming himself too “expensive” to be even having eye contacts with you.
People change, so does the environment. My friend’s ex-wife might (just, might) have seen a change in people around her that caused her shift in her thinking. Her friends are getting married, staying in posh apartments and going on holidays (that’s what she told me, when I asked her if she could consider reconciling her marriage), and the supervisor by profession sleeping besides her have to stay with his parents, and go to – the furthest ever – Malaysia for a weekend break.
She didn’t use to feel that envy, because everyone was like her when she was in technical school. But now, working around people who are buying new cars, new apartments, booking for holidays and buying the latest gadgets in town, she’d get envious when she saw someone (usually her female colleagues) telling her how she needed a winter coat for the upcoming trip to Korea. It’s not going to help if her colleague asked her to go shopping for the necessities with her. They’ll talk, and more often than not, conversations would (just an analogy here) circle around, “Have you been to Korea?” She’d compare, and she’d ask herself, “Can I be like them?”
Of course she could, if she worked on doing something about it. Part of her plans to improve her life involved her then-husband, and she suggested her husband to go back to school, hoping that if he did, he would be able to improve on his overall chances of employability and, perhaps, his intelligence.
But rejecting is what my friend does best. He rejects the idea that going to school is the path to a better life (he’s stubborn in some ways), and he also rejects any idea of having to do something that’ll put him out of his comfort zone to improve his life. In short, he wasn’t going to change; that option was out.
People surrounding us largely created environment that we are in, and in the case of my friend’s ex-wife, she’s already in an environment of luxury and indulgence. But there are more to talk about. The conversations around her were changing from street languages to Standard English. By Standard English, I mean the way we speak with strangers whom we do not know. Hers was too.
She had to lead a little double life, with one being the English speaking side, conversing with colleagues and friends in English, and the other being the Chinese woman side, going back home to face a Mandarin speaking husband who couldn’t – really, he couldn’t – piece together a sentence. She’d feel, and in fact, I felt that too when we corresponded, lower in social class. It seemed to me (I don’t really know, just some hunch) that she was feeling inferior.
She was still in her early 20s when she became the girlfriend of the supervisor. Life really wasn’t about the future for people of that age group (well, maybe except for some). Her priorities shifted from laughing today to laughing the longest when she’s in her 30s. And that shift would take place along the way when she was around 26. As she grew older, she realized that while she tried very hard in making changes to her life, her other half was leaving his career progression to a) work place suitability and b) the decision of his boss. She worked hard in order to be recognized in work, while the other half of hers was still with the “sack me if you don’t like me” attitude in his work.
Apparently, in a marriage that involves only 2 persons in love, there are more ways than we can imagine when it comes to influencing either party, and marriage really isn’t only about 2 persons. Mindsets shift as we progress into different stages of our lives, be it during the changes in our age, career, or even social status.
Let us come back to the lady who is the subject of this post. This lady, this young, still in school (because technically, she hasn’t really graduate yet), traded her comfortable life with her parents (and of course, we don’t know the full story behind yet. There are so little information about her parents) and walked on a life of 15 hours of work with practically no off days and holidays with her fiancé whom we do not know how long she has been with. And the future is a beautiful picture painted with dozens of colours in her mind. I can’t say for sure, how, having only read ¼ of her life’s book, she’s going to be so sure that she’ll be happy walking the other ¾ with the path she has chosen.
Similar to my friend’s wife, and even though I do not wish that it will happen to them, I’m seeing her struggling mentally, balancing her wants and needs with the love for the man she has committed herself to, in the years to come. If her expectations are going to go up in the future, her husband will have to know that eventually, he has to work on himself and his business to match whatever expectations his wife might have.
Eventually, love conquers all. But that love has to be strong enough to face the wrath of all the obstacles ahead that are going to come at different time, and during the most arbitrary period of her life. Her focus will have to be at what she wants, and focusing on the actions that will drive her to where she wants to be. I wish her all the best.
Andy Lawson is the average man on the street that you’ll not even trouble yourself looking at him if he passes by you. He’s sensitive to bullshit, and he hates mediocrity in most people. He is the author of his self-published book: Facts and Fiction of Fengshui: Facts that Masters are NOT Telling You. He doesn’t have Facebook or Twitter, because he hates to be associated with people who tend to be passive-aggressive online, but he does have a very limited set of vocabularies, terrible grammar, a twisted mind that makes himself God in his own twisted world and an ability to communicate with people who wish to be his friend.