August 16, 2015

My recent portrait received compliments, even my mum said it's good. "Got feel," she said. I'm skeptical.

Good? You sure? What feel? 

Obviously I chose this photo because it's not bad, but all I could see are flaws. The only feeling I had was a daunting sense of realization. I saw the signs of aging. My eye bags are protruding, laugh lines are becoming more visible on my right cheek. And my skin... my skin is not well. Besides the glorious reason to make the portrait look cooler, it was intentionally edited to be black and white... to hide my uneven skin tone and blemishes. I've been suffering from severe skin breakouts and allergies. It is a pain.

All I could see in this photo were flaws. Flaws that arise from self-loathing and doubts.

Flaws that arise from hating myself for growing, hating time for slipping so fast, doubting if I am on the right track, wondering I take the right job, thinking about my past and future. 

I am turning 26 in less than two months' time. That means the first quarter of my life has slipped away. Twenty five years of my life has passed, how unsettling and humbling.

What blessings was I bestowed to live until this day? 

And, what the hell have I done with my life?

Say Hi to Quarter Life Crisis, baby. This is the widely-discussed dilemma of the twenty- somethings.

And I know I am not the only one, my friends and I are going through this inevitable process together.

Just recently a good guy friend was telling us how his girlfriend was hinting him to get married after being two years together, but he couldn't afford a house yet. He is stressed out, financially and mentally. I looked into his eyes, the eyes of a friend whom I used to laugh and dream with. I asked him, "So you're ready to be a husband, a son-in-law and a father?" He avoided my gaze. And he started to talk about the places he wished he'd been, with a blank look and a quiet sigh.

A girl friend is not ready to be a wife and a mother yet, but people around her thought it's the right time to marry her boyfriend of five years. Complicating the situation, with confusion and guilt, she's not sure if he is the one. There are unresolved issues in the relationship but voices continue to float around her to persuade her to do this and do that.

"The best time to take wedding photos is in your twenties," they said. "The optimum age for a woman to get pregnant is 28," they said. "Don't think so much. Every marriage is like that. You will form a happy family," they said. "Grab the man's heart when you're still young," they said.

They said, they said. Who are they?

Why should everyone's destination be the same? Why should everyone's life map be the same?

You heard their voices. Did you hear yours?

Many people celebrate adulthood by entering into the sacred bond called marriage, and then have kids, and work, house loan, raise kids, travel, more loans, work, raise kids.

Thinking about it, my eyebrows cannot relax. I frown involuntarily.

My friends and I all agree, there has to be much more than this in life. 

This TED talk is good.

We know we have a choice, we can decide our lives.

How glorious it sounds. But the true irony and problem is, how difficult is it to go against the flow? With the current economy, environment and reality? Is it still possible to decide our own lives? How? 

And to tell you the truth, I'm slightly panicked because I want to choose a path less traveled.

I want to be a scientist and a writer, or more precisely, a biochemist and a biographer. Both bio, biochemists explore the technical and scientific aspects of lives, biographers explore the mentality and spiritual aspects of lives. Two contradicting but harmonious elements in life that I'm interested in. I am clear that I want to do this, but how? How to achieve this? Can I? Will I?

And yes I plan to pursue PhD. Don't give me that look. That puzzled look. I am well aware that not many men want to marry a smartass, difficult, might actually win in arguments with facts and proofs, could not be under your control smart and independent woman. We're not intoxicated by the Korean dramas. My fellow smart female friends all know it. No reminder needed here. So should we continue to reach for the stars? Or should we get a job at the bank, get married and have kids?

The guy friend that I mentioned, he wants to work overseas before getting married, but how? Will his girlfriend miraculously agree to it? And the girl friend, will her relationship problems vanish? Should she commit to this relationship?

I named this post 'prelude' as an introductory chapter to the next quarter of my life. Let's see what happens next. Hopefully ten years later, my friends and I are already having a good life, sipping tea, reread this post and laugh, "How stupid we were to spend time worrying! How silly!"

This blog post is meant to ask two questions with no definite answer,
"What do you really want to do with your life?" 
"How do you reach the destination?"

Have a good week! -E
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