A couple of years ago when I was living in Malaysia, I would spend hours on messenger talking to my friends Trev and Jan. The three of us were friends largely, I think, because we were all trying to figure out what we were going to do with our lives. We all met online. I met Trev on a forum; he met Jan through Facebook and introduced the two of us. We circled a great many topics and had some fiery debates.

Trev once accused me of utter absurdity for claiming great sex was my priority for any future relationship and I would roll my eyes so hard at Jan that I’d dislodge my contact lenses for her loyalty to her tiger parents. Of course we deliberately wound each other up, or at least Trev and I would wind each other and Jan up.   

It was a friendship we have moved on from. When Trev and I met up, it concreted the friendship and while it has been a couple of years since we saw each other he has promised to dance at my wedding. We still talk but in a different way, today its far more based on the idea that we’ve figured out what we want and now we’re trying to make it happen. Maybe because I never met Jan, that friendship was more going to be more ephemeral. Perhaps because Trev and I took literal as well as physical journeys it was harder to reconcile Jan’s coming of age with our own. As a triad we drifted apart. 

At any rate, what stands out from those conversations most was a question posed by Jan as to what more than anything motivated us. She ultimately chose money and seemed irritated at Trev’s motivation for travel and pleasure. Trev argued that things such as money, fame and success were pursued out of a belief that they would bring happiness. I agreed and said I was motivated by happiness itself, the little things. I’m currently living my live out of a desire for small pleasures; baking bread, keeping chickens, candles at dinner and good wine (hmm, actually it seems I’m motivated by food; I certainly subscribe to Jay Rayner’s opinion on dinner parties).

I remember my father offering up a similar question when I was a child. There were three goals he said; money, fame and success and if I was only able to have two, which would I choose? I chose money and fame, which he informed me was incorrect. (Daddy wasn’t much of a philosopher!) Of course now I see the question as flawed. It presumes there being a path through life that followed will make us happy.   

Perhaps being driven made my father happy but given my similarities to him, I suspect that being driven can be a tool for distraction. It’s the successful person’s procrastination for contemplating the meaning of life. I suspect my father would (given the chance) give the kind of retort that Jan might; that not being driven is procrastination for getting on with life and being a bum.   

Trev was certainly that for a while but from where I’m sitting he seems to have found peace with the world. He doesn’t have all the answers (or if he does, he’s holding back on me) but he accepts that. Likewise, I’m not completely certain in the direction my life is going in but I’ve largely come to terms with that being ok. Possibly, Jan’s peace lies in that corner office with a sea view she’s heading towards. Given I’ll never reach the career milestones Jan is aiming for it’s not really for me to say that happiness isn’t waiting there for her but I’m sure I wouldn’t find it there.   

The last time I spoke to Trev we talked about cherry trees and adventures. Each of us feels torn between the two opposing paths they represent to us. I want this family I’m building, he wants an allotment. Both of us love the open road. An image pops into my mind as I write this. Not of an open road at all but the bamboo train in Battambang, Cambodia. A thin track weaving through jungly fields with the sun setting about us; we were vaguely aiming towards Phnom Penh but Cambodia was 100% journey with destination irrelevant.   

I don’t think there is reconciliation; one will always come at the cost to the other. I want my family more than the open road but I’m still leaving them for an adventure in Turkey in September (the fiancé is wonderfully supportive). It will go a long way to appeasing my desire to leave them all for good. I’ve made my peace with that. I’m not terrible for wanting the opposite to what I have, I think I’m healthy for admitting to it and looking for a degree of compromise that will provide the happiest meeting in the middle point for me.   

I don’t think Trev, Jan and I have much in the way of answers but I feel as though we’ve each picked a direction to head in for now.   

Or at least, I’ve picked mine but that is only a third of the story...
Trev and I in Battambang (2008)
Oh and in case you’re wondering, great sex being a priority in my next relationship was really, I came to realise, a desire for the person I’d spend the most time with to share my views on what matters. We are all animals and have the same needs, I was looking for someone who agreed on the important things; shelter (characterful not new built), sleep (hard mattress not soft), food (see here) and sex (well, I’ll keep that to myself).
5/19/2011 03:27:29 pm

Funny to refer to my parents as "tiger parents" as I was never denied of fun and play dates and toys when I was a kid, and never made to go to extra tutorial lessons or learn thing I didn't want to, which is why I was never an "A" student and teachers never really favored me. But in return I was more social and "normal" as my parents wanted for me and had way more friends and a happy childhood :)

P.S. I only became an "A" student in Australia because everything was so easy in comparison haha....

5/19/2011 06:09:24 pm

I used the term to reflect the general thrust of their worldview. I hope that parents as extreme as Amy Chua are severely limited! What I interpret from what you've said is that you were raised with a strong work ethic that your parents saw as the key to success, ie. work hard and you will succeed.

By comparison, I think my parents (80s Yuppies) saw themselves as building a small empire. Yes my brother and I would have to work hard but there was a degree of faith in our destiny on the basis of inheriting my parents qualities. My dad was a bit of a Tiger dad but there was a sense of cut-off in expected obedience to our parents that comes when we left home which I think comes more gradually in Chinese culture.

You are a more loyal daughter and are expected to be a more loyal daughter than me.


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