This post is going to be a serious one. This afternoon, as I was browsing online, I came across a blog entry of my friend’s. She’s a senior in my university, someone I looked up to who was very nice and supportive of me. She got married a few years ago and has only recently, in the beginning of 2012, made a decision to become a NEET. NEET is a government acronym for people currently “not in education, employment, or training”. In her own words, “My reason for doing this is simply because I don’t see a point in sitting in an office taking instructions from other people for at least 10 hours a day when I could have spent those 10 hours doing other things that please me more.”
People may think she or her husband is rich and they would be wrong. But rich is a relative term, and one I would not use to describe her or her husband, whom I also knew from university. I don’t think they want anything, in Singapore a married couple can certainly live off one person’s salary. If they have kids, things may be a little tight, but they don’t and I don’t think they have any plan to in the foreseeable future.
The first question that came to my mind was what then? We were not close friends, but as far as I can tell, she’s not the type of person who likes to sit around and do nothing, although she values her personal time and is most comfortable when she’s alone. And yes, I was right, she has been busy the past few months, busy with cooking, traveling, reading, exercising, playing the piano, learning French, growing her own hydroponic herbs. Almost all were done in the comfort of her home.
She said all she’s ever wanted was to be able to live her life by her own choices, not to be dictated by external influences such as culture and norms, and above all, to be happy. Happiness is a choice. And while she agrees that we can make a conscious choice to be happy in whatever circumstances the world throws us into, she wonders if it would be better instead to tailor your circumstances as much as possible so the path to be happy is of the least resistance. Her life ambition is to be able to gladly say that everything that has taken place in her life is of her own choices, when the Shinigami comes to greet her (Yup, she’s always been an otaku).
Her entry stirs up mixed emotions in me. On one hand, I congratulate her and am happy that she made such a difficult (by the standard of our society) yet right decision for herself. Here’s someone who could stare life in the eye and claim from it what she truly wants. On the other hand, I wouldn’t make that choice for myself and for a while I try to rationalise why. Why, in spite of my admiration, I disagree that it’s the right choice, at least for me.
I, too, believe that my life is my own. I wouldn’t conform to society if that meant sacrificing my happiness and my beliefs. And I, too, can think of a hundred different ways I’d rather spend my days than sit in an office. But I have other dreams. I want to have my own home to hold my favorite stuff and make memories (not babies!) in, I want to travel around the world comfortably (not by cycling, not by hitchhiking), I want to afford good quality things for myself and my loved ones. I know that sounds materialistic and consumptive, but I do get happy over worldly things. I’m not ascetic.
There is happiness to be had when I know I’m standing on my own two feet. When I know I earn enough to provide for myself and those I care about. I derive satisfaction and a sense of deserved accomplishment when I get glowing performance feedbacks in my workplace. I learn at work, oftentimes without realizing, because I work with different kinds of people (there must be at least 20 nationalities in our office), tackling a multitude of problems: technical, functional, and personal. I have stressful days, but I have good, rewarding ones as well. They may not always be proportional, but the good days are worth waiting for.
I had a colleague who once said, everything around us, everything that enables us to live the way we do today, are results of the intelligence, innovation, and hard work of countless people before us. One of my company’s core values is stewardship, and its essence is making the world a better place for the future generation. I am not as selfless as you may think, and I’m not about to throw myself into charity work full time, but in my own ways, in doing my work the best I could every day, I’d like to think I’m doing my part, contributing to progress and betterment of human lives. Is it a far-fetched notion? I have to think big sometimes, because I don’t care for the alternative: feeling insignificant and fatalistic.
One day, I would have saved and invested enough money to quit my job and do whatever it is I’m passionate about. I still don’t know what that is, my interests are too eclectic at this point in time, but I’ll find out and pursue it. When that time comes, I don’t want to be worrying over my means, my dad, my sisters. I want to be in a position that I don’t have to make sacrifices to live the life I want. And till that time, I’ll make the most of what I have and do.
Do you have differing opinions on this subject? I’d love to hear them.