Monday, 17 July 2017

Be satisfied but don't settle

It's 2a.m. in the morning. I had a really long day at work and what's worse? Instead of heading home for a nice and simple meal whipped up by my mother, I was obliged to have a couple of drinks with my colleagues at our same old hangout. As usual, the "couple of drinks" turned out to be a night-long conversation about office gossips, the latest season of Rick and Morty, and our future ambitions if we ever decide to leave the military. Again, as usual, the 15-minute train ride home felt like an eternity. "If only I could teleport... If only I could teleport... If only I could teleport..." I chanted in my head, dying to go home, get clean, and hit the sack.

It's 2a.m. in the morning. I am finally in the comfort of my bedroom, surrounded by the familiar sound of my baby sister's breath. I am just about to put an end to my rather mediocre day when my second sister starts whining about her high school woes. She is one and a half years away from having to decide what she wants to do with her life. (Well, not her entire life but what she wants to study in university, which would - sort of - dictate direct the subsequent years of her life.) Problem is: she's got absolutely no clue what she wants! We spend an hour throwing out career options and the relevant degree programmes, while I struggle to fight off the strong desire to drift into slumber. Another hour goes by and we seem even more confused than before. And then, silence. I guess she fell asleep. Or maybe, she just needs time to think and process everything. It's probably time for me to return to my former preoccupation.

I am still very very tired but somehow, my mind is not ready to call it a day. I drift into a semi-conscious state. I go back to my high school days, when I was filled with ambition, like my sister, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life but convicted that I wanted to do many meaningful things in this lifetime. My university days flash across my mind, like blurred images - those you have in dreams, in the final hours of sleep, just before you are greeted by the morning sun - and a sense of pride fills my belly. I have come a long way, indeed, and I'm sure my 18-year-old self would be proud of where I am today.

I linger on that sense of pride and attempt savour every bit of it but it fades away too quickly. I am suddenly overtaken by a tinge of regret that, within seconds, manifests itself into an overwhelming sense of dread. Yes, my 18-year-old self would be proud of where I am today but my 80-year-old self wouldn't. "What happened to that determination that got you through military training? What happened to that excitement that got you typing away after every dream, and experience, and epiphany? What happened to that YOLO attitude that motivated you to do silly things that you now and then look back and laugh at?" These questions flood my mind with an unrelenting determination. Tired? I am no longer tired.

I am turning 23 in three months. Without realising it, I have succumbed to the demon of adulthood. When I was 18, I had lofty dreams about backpacking Europe. I have been in the UK for three years now but have NEVER backpacked Europe. "Why backpack when you can afford a comfortable room to sleep in?" the demon of adulthood whispers in my ears. When I first joined the army four years ago, I told myself that I must jump out of a plane one day. I begged and persisted, and begged and persisted, for a chance to be put on the Airborne course but the reply was always, "wait." Four years on, I find myself discouraged and no longer even asking. "Just focus on your career," the demon of adulthood slaps me in the face. When I was 19, I discovered my passion for writing and I could spend hours narrating a story for my handful of readers. Now, (I think) I would very much rather spend the evening on a brainless show after a long day at work."What's the point in spending so much time on something you're not being paid for? It's not worth it," the demon of adulthood lectures me.

But tonight, I will not be seduced. I will not turn the other cheek. And I will not be lectured. Let me tell you, I will backpack because I am 23 and should do it while I still can. I will try again and again to pursue the experiences that I've always wanted, even if they do not value-add to my career, because one day, I will regret if I didn't even try. And I will invest my time and effort in my passion even if it doesn't pay because THAT IS WHAT PASSION IS.


For those who are reading this, whether you are 18, in your 20s, 30s, or even 50s, it is not too late to pursue what you've always wanted to do but have yet to do so. Of course, there are career decisions we have made and cannot undo. There are seasons of our lives that we did not cherish and can no longer relive. There are mountains that we have always wanted to scale but no longer have the stamina to do so. But- There are also many other things that you've jotted down in your mental bucket list years ago and may have neglected. For those things, I shall steal Emma Watson's quote (and yes, take it out of context), "if not me, who? If not now, when?"

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