Saturday, August 25, 2012

A wedding and a contemplation on quarter life crisis


I went to a wedding today, just thought I would share that. BEFORE that, I came across this piece. I found that to be extremely useful for someone like me. I am currently in a long-term relationship (defined as anything over 12 months) and have been pressured by my parents to get married soon. I chose to listen to myself and told them that I'd like to wait. The last thing I want to do is to be unsure of this particular decision that has the potential of either making me the happiest woman alive or the most miserable woman alive (or at least one of them). Marriage, or the decision to get married, cannot be rushed. I have three parents and out of those three, one of them has the best parenting skill, and we are not even related by blood. But if I can choose who my parents would be, I would definitely choose her.

I am very vocal when it comes to my opinions on weddings. I understand the bit about spending the rest of your lives together with this other person. I loathe the too overly commercialised side of the whole thing. Today's wedding was one of those weddings that I actually like - it was small, it was intimate and it was personal. My kind of wedding. :)

I get that for some people declaring their love in public is important - making an announcement to your close friends that from this point on words, we are going to be stuck together through thick and thin. To be part of this event is a privilege, and I am thankful for being a part of it. The worst part of a wedding is when you are invited out of obligation. Of course that you would never be able to find out whether this is the real case, ever. I have the feeling that sometimes, it happens - you are invited out of obligation. It sucks, yes, because declining an invite is hard - at least for me anyway. Yet I do decline such invitations because I'd rather stay true to the ones that I do attend: being a part of a significantly defining moment in two people's lives.

Those people that got married - they got lucky. A lot of them have been waiting for a long time for the one special person to enter their lives and when this person does, they jump at the chance of happily ever after. At this point in time, I don't think they are thinking about divorce at all. Yet I understand that we all change, just like everything else in life changes and consequently, they might outgrow each other and subsequently becomes unsuitable for each other. It happens, and it is fine. It does mean that those two people now need to decide what the fuck are they going to do now, given this new development. They either spice up the relationship or they separate. You either choose to grow together, or you grow separately. Staying together while being stagnant is not a real option because this will slowly and surely kill you. Or if it doesn't kill you, it will hinder the growth of those around you. Or both.

One of the things that I have been regretting as of late is that there was a period of time whereby I did not write much. Admittedly it was because I did not know how to articulate what I was feeling. I am referring to my version of quarter life crisis. I am very thankful that my life right now is very good, but it has not always been this way. This is my story.

I was 24 when I received the news that my dissertation was been granted the status of "pass without further examination", which is the best news that anyone can ask for. It was exactly what I aimed to achieve, and as such, to receive such news was incredibly satisfying. I have been working hard in the past 3 years of my life for that degree, and it was all for that one moment in time. Dare I say that it was a lot more satisfying than graduation.

At that time I thought it was the conclusion of such a massive goal plus the break down of a relationship plus living back with my family that triggered what I subsequently knew as quarter life crisis. For me, it was more about a lack of goals - a lack of next big things. A lot of my friends were busy with weddings and getting pregnant, so none of them could relate to this. Either that, or because I am friends with people waaayyy older than me, they just thought I was being juvenile and refused to grow up.

Growing up. That is such a big deal in my life because I just have a slower pace compared to everyone else. Schooling for example, I just had to do the extra 3 years for the doctorate before I was satisfied that yep, I don't want to do school for a while. My friends, on the other hand, could not wait to escape as soon as they finish their bachelor degrees. A handful returned to school to do their masters - most did not. Then there is this marriage thing - because most people that I know make this decision at about the 24 months mark (or earlier). We have been together for waaayyy longer than that and are still yet to tie the knot.

I mean, seriously, I am slow. Don't use me as a benchmark because, oh well, I am more like the outlier.

I get that a lot of people told me to grow up because of that. I think they somewhat mean that as "conform with what people your age are doing". I don't mind conforming insofar as it is something I'd like to do. However most of the time, it was just so far away with what I'd like to do that it took more effort for me to convince myself that it was the right thing to do rather than just doing whatever it was I wanted to do.

My QLC materialised in me not knowing what the fuck it was I wanted to do. Or maybe it was because I did not want to admit it to myself. Maybe I knew it all along, and I just didn't realise that. Because I was too busy listening to what everyone else has got to say. I think this is why I get more self-assured as I get older. Self-assured is the wrong word, I was thinking of an Indonesian word with no English equivalent and self-assured was as close as I could fine right now.

I believe in listening to my own voice and to follow that through most of the time. I say most of the time because there are times in which that voice is too emotional - like when I am angry for example. I am human, I do have emotions and one of those emotions is anger. I have a tendency to become irrational when I am angry, just like any other human being who is angry. In the end, following my own voice got me out of the issue, although in a lot of ways, I am still battling similar issues, just better equipped with experience.

Anyone who is going through QLC would say that they are questioning where they are in their lives, why they are doing what they are doing, and why they are not doing what they have always wanted to do all along. In some ways, it was like that for me. I was questioning why I was living at home instead of living in my own apartment (answer: not enough moolah). Why was I doing what I was doing (answer: for moolah - need this to survive, because even when I was staying at home, I still had to pay rent!!). Why was I not doing what I had always wanted to do - hang on, what was it I had always wanted to do? I forgot.

There were a few things that I knew then - I knew, for example, that I did not want to return to my old relationship, especially during the times whereby the desire to return to something familiar was very high. I wished (irrationally) that he would be a supportive friend (because he was once upon a time, the closest person in my life), but he wasn't. That was quite a lot of truth to swallow, but I learned those painful lessons. Just because he said he was going to be there does not mean he is going to be there. In fact, he was partly the reason why I felt so miserable (and this is not about me blaming him for the things that were wrong in my life) because he deliberately wanted me to fail in everything that I did. This is going to be another story another time.

To be honest, I feel that it is somewhat corny when people say I will do X when Y happens. It is like - seriously? If you want to do X, then why don't you just do it right now. Why do you have to wait till Y happens? What if Y never happens, then you would forever not do X? Especially if you have no control over when and how Y is going to happen?

I don't understand people. There we go, I said it. I did not understand people and I still don't understand people. And for guys out there (and girls too, I suppose) - if you can't be friends with your ex, that's fine, just don't say that you are going to remain friends when you know that you can't be fucked to put in any effort in the friendship. I know that I don't wish to remain friends with any of my exes san weak moments where I want to return to the old and familiar, but I still said yes if they ever asked "are we going to remain friends?" all while knowing that I was not friends with any of my exes at the time. It is like, seriously dude, action speaks louder than words. Yes, ok, I lied to you out of convenient, but surely, you could tell that I was lying out of convenient. Unless of course, you chose not to see that.

Career-wise, it is always hard to transition from one path to a different path - because our society does not actively promote such transitions. The only somewhat forgiveable transition is when you take parental leave, and even then, you were expected to pick up where you left off. We frown upon people whom in our eyes suddenly want to do something different. Most of the time these people have to start from the bottom. Very few can start from the middle, but this is not the norm. The success stories of people we know often involve them specialising in one thing since a very young age - Steve Jobs and computers, Bill Gates and computers, etc etc etc.

But what if, just what if, you know instinctively that this is not the path that you are meant to be in? Therefore, in order to stay true to yourself (and in my case, be able to sleep well at night), you have no choice but to take on this tough journey and just toughen it up until you make it. You are going to fall down, bleed, get tired, all the works. Each and every time, you have to get up, toughen up and try again and again and again.

I wish  I can put that in a different way. A lot of times, I run out of courage. That is annoying, but the upside is that I learn to replenish my courage. I also run out of energy and patience. Oh my gawd, patience.

The problem with listening to other people's advice is that they can only say the lessons that worked for them, which may not work for you. This is why back when I was teaching I was reluctant to answer questions that effectively disguises itself as "what should I do with my life". One of those questions was this "out of the investment bankers and auditors, who are the least miserable?". The person who asked me this is a honours student who is about to embark on some job interviews and probably got a few offers. How could you be basing your decision on whether other people are happy or not with their choices? Those were not your choice to make. You have no choice other than choosing the one that is most suitable with who you are and what you want. You owe to yourself because no one else can make this decision for you.

Case in point - every time I speak to an academic, he would always say, do an academic job. Of course he will say this because it is his job and to him it is the best job. It does not mean it is the best for me. A variation of this is when he advised to take a job that is of non-academic nature in a university because it is a stable job. Again, same reasoning - it is his environment, he knows it best and to him it is the best. It does not mean it is the best for me. Change the words "an academic" to other professions within a certain industry and you would get similar answers most of the time. People have their own agendas and motives, you need to be aware of this when you ask your questions. The best of these people would be upfront about their agendas and motives, such as for example, my boss, who openly admitted that his opinion would be biased because he has his own agendas. I admire people like this and I make a mental note to be someone like this when the time comes.

It is very difficult to stay on your journey especially when you are still finding out your destination and you have a million people giving you opinions disguised as advices as to what you should do with your life. This is a part of the journey, you see. There will be people who are truly supportive of your choices, there will be people who say encouraging things and somehow gives you the strength to keep on going. There will also be people who want to bring you down, for whatever reason. You must learn to believe in yourself, especially when the going gets tough.


Okay, this got incredibly long and I am in no mood for editing. Sorry! I am still exercising my writing muscles, and I run out of steam.

Have a great weekend! x



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