I am not invisible. Nor am I invincible.
There is no rule book on the game of life. It is human nature to believe with absolute certainty that our actions are morally and ethically correct – that we sometimes fail to see how our version of truths, when presented raw and unfiltered, may be perceived as tactless.
By nature, we are all imperfect. Where we excel in one area of our lives, we are failing (miserably) at another. There will be times when our actions do not reflect the person that we are or the person want to be, yet it is important that we learn from those missteps and constantly evolve. We grow in different ways; Every situation we encounter can either define or refine us. It is in observing and interacting with more people, I gain new perspectives and develop my own identity.
I remembered a thought-provoking topic with an elder about my generation (the Gen Y) several months ago. He told me how he wanted better for his children and that though he didn’t quite agree with their actions, he had come to terms that they are capable of making their own decisions. I told him that it was very brave and inspiring for his children to follow the path less taken (regardless the presumably low pay) and how mental health is significant.
And his response?
“That is because your generation are privileged enough to be able to have this choice.”
He continued to tell me his story about how they struggled and did odd jobs to support their family when they were our age. That was a perspective that I never considered. Although I do not completely agree with him, it was somewhat true; often we are blissfully unaware of our privilege and how our lives were made better unknowingly.
I am learning to master the art of conversations. There are times when the conversations are rigid or when I stumble upon my words, and those interactions are just as painful to watch as it is to be in. I am less shy and reserved as I become more outspoken about my thoughts. I can strike up a conversation with random strangers. I can bridge conversations between two people. I can openly disagree with people, even authority figures. I can tell a person when their jokes aren’t funny or if they are out of line
Just because I can, doesn’t mean I do it all the time.
Yet there are some things that I do not do. I constantly remind myself to not seek validation and assurances for what I feel, especially when I am most vulnerable. I do not project negative vibes that I experienced, especially subtle jabs and insult-laced jokes. I hardly express disappointment; I learn that it is not my job to fix everyone and that also indicates a level of expectation in another person.
We have our own sense of right and wrong. Doing things that are lawfully or legally correct is easy. Moral and ethics are more tricky and often subject to interpretation. For example, I do not think it is ethical to buy used items at a lower price and selling it at a higher price without any modifications. But in another way of thinking, one man trash is another man’s treasure.
Difficult conversations are hard to initiate. Nobody likes to engage in conversations like these; they usually lead to dead-end. But it is important that we are having these conversations to start with.
Because, think about it, if someone bothers to tell you their version of truth, why not listen?
Some highlights since the last update:
Last week, two of my university friends came to Malaysia for a visit. I enjoyed listening to them summarising me the major changes in our university; the iconic University bridge was knocked down during renovation, buildings were refurbished, the Northern Campus transferred etc. They talked about their experiences in a student exchange program in China, how beautiful and modern Malaysia (and that at least everyone could speak some level of English).
I find it hilarious that they always felt I have a zen aura until they sat in my car and heard my random rhetorical remarks while driving (such as “Hello Auntie/ Uncle, why no signal lights?” as though the other driver could hear me). Driving in KL brings out the worst in people, though they said that Malaysian drivers are relatively safe drivers (compared to China). Oh really.
I find it interesting to hear the perspectives of people that know me recently and people that know me longer. Those who know me later would comment that I have vast interest while people who know me longer tell me that I have different “phases” in my life.
After all, making conversations often means sharing a part of your life. I have been open about my interests from learning codes to building Excel VBA/ macros to writing to baking to calligraphy. Fun fact: I baked an apple pie just last weekend!
My calligraphy work is recently displayed at The Playground. To be honest, there are a lot of room for improvement; see the crooks in the Os, the wobbles in the Ds, the incomplete ending to the Ls. But I remind myself not to be too hard on myself, that calligraphy by nature is a creative process and the fun lies in the practice. I met people that are genuinely excited about my scribbles and it gives me that confidence boost I didn’t know I quite needed.
As I resumed my usual workout routine, I received the same comment “I haven’t seen you in a while” from three different people, at three different locations. It was a pleasant surprise to be reminded that I am not invisible.
Speaking of pleasant surprises, I asked a person to take a photograph for me (on ground level presumably) and she went to great heights (literally, by climbing up a frame) to get a good shot – as below!
There are people who go a step further than what is expected, and at the other end of the spectrum, the kind that do the bare minimum. Inspiration is all around if we know where to look.
Thank you, Sam.