After spending a few years away from home, I came home to realize that there was a recurring theme in my family - we tend to force ourselves to do many things that we didn't like, just because we SHOULD. Perhaps it's a common concept in traditional Chinese families, who tend to put anything and everything above themselves. Work comes first, making money comes first, children comes first, a large house, the perfect picket fence...you get my flow. I never felt this way before when I stayed at home but after I came back from my studies, I realized that my life at home had been quite suppressed. We would deny ourselves the most minute of things, just to save money or 'because we shouldn't do it.' The most common examples in my home is that we tend to NOT turn on the fan if we could, for the sake of saving electricity and money. Not that bad, you think? Well, certainly not the best idea in the blistering heat of Malaysia. Another thing is that my family has this notion that everyone should do everything together. For example, they used to drag me to the pool and badminton court, when I really really hated swimming and badminton. But when I was young I never even thought of rebelling, and went along on those swimming trips and forced myself to swim. (Don't ask me why I hate swimming so much. I'm just born with it I think.) Years after, I wonder to myself why couldn't I have just refused to go along, and saved myself all of that. But to be fair to them, some good came out of their efforts, I grew to love badminton after playing with them for so many years.
Another common trend in Asian people is that we tend to do something because it fits us in the 'acceptable' mould, be it of a good husband or wife, a filial son or daughter, or a responsible employee. I think the main difference between western and asian people is that the westerners embrace their individualities. They encourage their students and children to pursue their passion in life, regardless of whether it will be a profitable career in the future. They encourage their young people to embrace differences in personalities and characteristics, likes and dislikes, beliefs and goals in life. No goal is too trivial, no passion is too silly. A very real-life example is that people who dress differently are wholly accepted in the west. No one bats an eye if you walk down the street with a mohawk, or wear fishnet stockings with thigh-high boots. Try that here in Malaysia and people will probably think you're crazy. And most parents in Asian families would encourage, and sometimes force their kids to study something 'socially acceptable', preferably professional courses. That would perhaps explain why our population is overflowing with doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers, and dare I mention it, pharmacists! How many a budding artist has been fully encouraged to pursue their true passion in life? My bet is that most parents would coerce the little Picasso to brush up on their maths or science, instead of spending his time drawing. Sometimes I wonder if it is due to an innate fear of 'losing face' that make parents force their kids to have, what they think is, a proper career, and let the parents be proud when stating in front of the relatives that 'Oh, my son is a doctor *cue for parent to smile and swell*' instead of saying 'Uh, my son is a starving painter *cue to drop head and sad frown*.'
Does that not sound sad to us? We do things for people to accept us as one of their own, for fear that we would be ostracised for doing something we really love. Are we really doing the right thing when we heed our parents and relatives' advice to become a doctor 'because people will look up to you and you will make lots of money', and hate our job with a vengeance all the while we're at it? Are we?
What I am just saying that if we realize that something that we've believed wholeheartedly in for our whole life is not quite right, we should at least try to make a difference in our life by changing for the better. And what is 'better'? I guess it is whatever that makes us happy that counts.
Life is too short to waste on doing things that are useless, or make us unhappy, as long as we don't harm others in the process. Isn't it?