The Joy Luck Club is the first book which made me cry, or I should say, sob with ugly abandon. Mostly because I really connected with the stories in it, and one thread in particular, that of June.
I grew up with similar pressures, my mother wanted me to be a prodigy, like my cousins. I lived through that story-the crushing disappointment emanating from my mother upon the realisation that I was no prodigy, I wasn’t even above average, I was just average. Unlike the book, I did not have the moment of clarity when June realises she could make her own choices and be strong/good in her own way. I grew up knowing I was average and knowing that it was the worst disappointment I would ever inflict on my mother.
Or was it all in my head? Was I transposing my own disappointment onto my mother? Had I wanted to be a prodigy more than my mother had wanted me to be one? Do I still want to be a prodigy of some sort?
For so many years, I was bitter and angry about failing. I developed a severe fear of failure which resulted in me never aiming for more than low hanging fruit. I had no idea about my own future, what I wanted; no dreams beyond just having a ‘nice life’. I had no ambition, zero passion for anything. I always took the easy way out…
Taking the easy way out meant that I would never have to try. Taking the road more often travelled meant that I would always be good enough to succeed. It meant never having to disappoint myself or anyone else. It meant never having to think about what my heart desired.
There is no shame in being average, as long as you know your own worth. That’s not me.. I am one of those average people who yearn to be outstanding and yet will do nothing but stamp their feet and complain about how nobody gives them a chance. Because as I’ve said, not giving something a go means I don’t ever have to go through that crushing misery that comes with failure.
Two years ago, I embarked on a career transition. Which has so far, failed to pay any dividends. I thought I would be one of those corporate people, marching along with the besuited crowds in our matching black/blue suits along the road to corporate success (whatever that means). The reality is I am still lost, still have no idea what kind of ‘corporate’ I want to be (again naive me thinking that there was only one kind of corporate) and having to subsist on handouts from my parents and the occasional cleaning work.
If I knew my own worth, would my story have ended differently? If I accepted my worth, swallowed the fact that I would be nothing more than ordinary, would I be happier?
When we were kids, I looked up to my eldest cousin a lot. She was tiny, petite she would say, yet she had the confident nature of a white man twice her size. She was the kind of person who would never back down, especially if she believed her rights had been encroached. And she was always not afraid to ask for things, be it an additional free sample, or a free appetiser at a restaurant.
To some, it might appear that my cousin is demanding. She’s that type of customer which wait staff dread. To me though, her conduct demands respect, even if at times I think she goes to far and that respect turns into condescension.
My cousin was not always this way-this unafraid to ask for things, this fearless in pursuing her rights. Family lore has it that she was rather timid as a pre-adolescent. The kind who waited for things to be offered instead of asking for them. Rather much like I have been and still am.
Where did the confidence she had come from? How had she learnt to seize things instead of just waiting for things to blow her way?
There is an apocryphal story in our family lore-about how the shy, timid girl was obliterated and in her place stood the strong woman.
Once, when she was a young girl, there was a van offering free samples of Milo. What child could resist that? But my cousin was too timid to go and ask for a sample and just stood around, waiting for the nice man to offer her one. Her mother, my aunt was incensed by her behaviour. My aunt then insisted that my cousin go and ask for a sample, if she wanted one. Because nobody was going to give her a free sample if she just waited around. In fact, that went for life as well, my aunt said, “nobody will ever give you anything. If you want something, you have to ask for it! Just waiting around for things to happen is futile.”
It is a life lesson which I wished I’d learnt a lot earlier. But till this day, I still wait for things to happen, I still wait around for the winds of change to buffet me around. I cannot bring myself to ask for things. When will my Milo moment happen?
There are no excuses I can give-sure, reasons and justifications exist but not excuses. I will not make any excuses.. And by extension, that makes all reasons and justifications moot.
Without excuses, without reasons; there is no blame. Or rather, it is that the blame cannot be apportioned to anyone else. The blame rests solely with me; the blame resides in me. But to acknowledge that blame that rests on my shoulder, waiting to ensnare me in its waiting jaws in order to drag me down into that spiral of hell, that long descent towards self recriminations, is to give it power.. And I won’t do that, not this time.
All I can acknowledge is a weariness-a tiredness. The kind which comes with the constant push and struggle which apparently leads nowhere. Even on the most optimistic of days, those days when I can grudgingly admit to myself that I didn’t do all that badly, it is tough for me to find any point to the struggle. Where has it lead me? Did I learn anything?
It behooves me to try again and again, repeatedly. For to give in and give up is to accept the bitter realisation that the path I chose, on my own, is not true… And I have not that strength to double back and find the true way. For even false roads lead somewhere; even they eventually end up in some kind of clearing-a denouement, an end. Even those byways and overgrown paths lead somewhere eventually; but of course, the constant fear of a dead end remains…
The fact is, back then, decisions were made-small little inconsequential things, which at that time, didn’t seem to mean anything but which may have turned out to be my undoing. And realising those mistakes later, I still went ahead and did the same thing over… I have no explanation for those turn of events-no way to justify… And it is precisely the cause of why I am where I am.
There is nothing to do now but to accept that events have transpired as they have, the chips have fallen where they may. As much as I can rue the decisions made, the paths that could have been, now fading away, there is no point in that. Why cry over a path that can never be traversed? It will not bring that path back-that journey can never be made… The only thing left to do is to walk the path I am on, to the bitter end… Wherever it leads..
The waiting and the not knowing is the hardest part.. You are on the edge of a precipice, on tenterhooks, just waiting; seconds pass, minute after minute.. Waiting for confirmation, for validation.
The tragic part is that the outcome is already known. The powers that be have already determined who shall not pass; call these powers fate or HR-call them whatever one pleases, but they already know the power they yield…
It is hard to remain indifferent when this is one of the rare opportunities remaining. It is hard to maintain the perspective that it doesn’t, at the end of the day really matter-that this is but the first part of a long journey, and that a failure at this stage doesn’t preclude one from success.. It is hard to hold on to that precarious grip on the edge of sanity, precisely because of the deeply warping desire to claim some form of validation from a vote of confidence.
Ah, but to stake confidence on this outcome is a fallacy… Mostly because the expectation and the reality of what will be, what is to come are so divergent. What will happen may not necessarily be good for me nor what I want. What I want today, right now, this moment, more than anything: to get an internship may not necessarily be the best course, the wisest path…
But still I wait with bated breath; too weak to leave it all to God, to own the fact that I have done all I could, that what I put forth was the best of my abilities and to accept the judgement which comes… I wait for that email, that call, that sign of it being my time, my turn. I wait and I dream and I dread.. Soon, what is to be will reveal itself… And whatever that outcome is, I can only hope that I will have the force of will, the grace and the strength to accept it and to soldier onwards…
The victim mentality.I don’t deny it, I have the tendency to play the victim card. I do it because it’s easy, because it’s expedient, perhaps because the only way I can sort of push myself to go forward is to have collect the sympathy I receive and use it as some kind of force to propel me forward, as though sympathy is some kind of battery for me. It’s pathetic isn’t it? But there I go again, seeking sympathy.
The truth is I really would like to stop wallowing in the filth of my own misery. I do. But essentially the detente with that is this: to stop wallowing in self pity, I need to make some very tough decisions. And I am risk averse; averse to making any kind of decision. And so I continue down this wretched path hoping for something to change, wishing for some momentous event to happen so I can delineate my life into pre- and post- this event. I go on doing things in the same fashion, living my life in the exact same way always putting of any kind of beneficial change, which I know I must make but am too afraid of making, off. Ladies and gentlemen, that is the very definition of crazy.
I know why I have lost readers over this period; because reading about one person’s self pity and watching vicariously as that person sinks deeper into the quagmire of fear whilst refusing to change in order to save himself is tiring. Beyond tiring, it’s boring. The same paths rehashed, the same topics raked over repeatedly as though ripping through old wounds and ancient grudges is going to effect some kind of change. I know. I have exasperated a fair chunk of what used to be my regular readers; exasperated them to the point where they have ceased reading, stopped visiting and I stand to lose the remainder of my readers if I continue on this path.
But what I cannot seem to do, what I wish I could get someone to tell me how to do, is change. I want to be able to say that I am truly not affected by the almost constant deluge of rejections I receive; whether it’s career related or men related. But I am. The frank truth is that it kills me. It destroys me. And yes, I wallow and I write…
Admittedly, I do know that the career related rejections are implicitly my fault. I must take the blame for that; because I haven’t thought through thoroughly what it is I want to do with my current degree. One could say that I am only applying for internships because it is the thing to do. I have zero conviction on whether I want to work in a bank, or in management consulting or in an investment bank or an accounting firm. I don’t know what it is I want to do and it shows on my applications, so the rejections should come as no surprise to me. Despite how well I am doing, and I am doing well all things considered, minus that conviction, I will never successfully get an interview.
Here is my attempt then, feeble as it is, to maintain a sense of clarity, to in a way, stop playing the victim. I am not the victim.. It is perhaps for the best that I don’t get an internship because I don’t know if that’s what I want to do. And it’s ok to admit that. I just need to embrace that fact…
I will also cop to the fact that rejection in love is also to be expected since the timing isn’t right… And there really is nothing more to say on that matter..
All I can say now is that I am trying, I really am. There is no point in me trying to garner any kind of sympathy in order to ‘take strength’ from it.. But at the same time, without making the changes I must make, my life will not be in any state of flux. Meaning that whatever I write, will always sound like a rehash…
There are the similarities-both applying for internships/jobs and dating in that both are basically numbers games. They operate on the belief that as long as one does not give up, there will be a reward in terms of a job or a man at the end of the hard slog.
Here I am reminded of a scene in the movie Little Fish with Cate Blanchett. Her character, in the midst of a despairing soliloquy asks, ‘what more can I do?’. Or words to that effect. In essence, sometimes one can do everything right, do every possible thing and yet still not be able to achieve that goal of a job or a man. Somehow, something, whether one is able to distinguish what it is, or whether one is blissfully oblivious, keeps getting in the way. Put it another way, either one is not good enough, or there are other people who are superficially better.
I know, don’t I know it, that either love or a career or both in some kind of magic formulation is not going to guarantee my happiness. I know that happiness isn’t meant to be fuelled by just these two things, that career and love are not all encompassing.. Yet, these two aspects seem to be the only thing that I am aware of that has the potential to make me happy.
Perhaps it is who I am; a person who conflates happiness with security, with having money. All my choices, be it in terms of my career or the men I date have been made in order to maximise the chances that I will have a secure life, and that I am able to lead the lifestyle I wish to live. But these choices haven’t necessarily been the best; in fact, I could possibly call a lot of them the wrong choice.
I am fully aware that what I need to do right at this moment has nothing to do with either my career or love-I need to find a source of self worth that is not inherently linked to something external like a career or a man; neither can it be something as superficial as my body. I know that I have to find something that I am passionate about, and not be a dilettante about it. I just don’t know what it is…
Once upon a time, I thought it was my writing-but let’s face it, the only reason I wrote in the past was because I secretly wished for literary fame and fortune-as much as I decried the ‘fame now’ ethos of Hannah Horvath, the ugly truth is that I felt the same way-that I was an undiscovered voice of my generation. Obviously I am not.. There already is a gay Asian voice, voices even; what more could I add to that conversation? being a dilettante, of course I basically gave up on writing once I realised that… And whatever I write now is basically just an extended version of my own rambling musings..
Take away the writing, what else is there? I am nothing special. Average in all aspects. Not that having a passion for something equates to being good or the best at that thing-see, another one of my warped ideas…
I realised that I left of doing a lot of the ‘normal’ things that people do in the course of their youth; things like travel for instance. I left it off because I kept thinking how awkward it would be to travel alone, to be unable to share that experience. Of corse there was a semblance of fear there, but on the whole, I left off doing those things, waiting for something, someone to be able to do it with. And now, it’s basically too late.
I can only hope and pray for some breakthrough now. Because I have done almost everything possible in terms of my career and my love life. Whether I did these things right is of course a debatable point.. That’s all I can do now really, return to waiting for something to happen…
It’s a bittersweet moment when one has to relinquish all hopes of something bigger to come. One can either chalk it up to false expectations or to misplaced hopes in the attempt to push past whatever ache this abandonment of intent has caused..
It is a moment tinged with bitterness, that is undeniable. And the sweet? Well that comes from the knowledge and the comfort that life need not be suspended in breathless anticipation of the next move and what comes after. There is no after, no us, no we; there is only me, I, along again naturally. There is no more need to moodily stare at a silent phone wondering when the next text, the next call, the next message will come through; no more wondering about whether I am in his thoughts like he is in mine. There is no more need to rehearse what to say, what kind of nonchalant tone to portray.
The freedom to not care anymore is back; although I cannot help wondering: if I had that carefree, don’t give a fuck attitude right from the start… What could have been? For if there is one thing I am certain of, it is that men, and gay men especially, hate clinginess.
It is a giving up, yes, and also a rejection. But at least this time; at the very least, I am disengaging with my dignity intact; at least this time I did not beg for anything. Sometimes that is the best that one can ask for in these situations; to have come out with ones dignity intact.
This is what would have happened anyhow. I should know, really I should, that love is not a path one can force or choose for that matter. As cliched as it is, love does choose the person and not vice versa. I just wish that I could reconcile myself to that fact, stop wishing so much for it and move on. Of course that is easier said than done. With my life being as barren as it is, it is exceptionally difficult. When there is so little to look forward to on a day to day basis, then what can I do but obsess over love?
I do not yet know what to do, going forward.. Perhaps there is no more ‘forward’ to go.. Perhaps this is it then; the lonely life, the single life…
Where the love life has failed, rightfully this should be counteracted by some kind of success in my career. Shouldn’t it? Isn’t that the way of the world, balance, Tao and all that crap? But it’s not… Life is unfair and cruel, and to expect one aspect of my life to work because the other is in shambles is hoping for too much. Suffice to say, no aspect of my life is going well; it’s a train wreck, it is chaos. Nothing is working at the moment and it’s frustrating and it’s depressing. A life of no’s; that’s my life currently-no love, no career, no life.