It has been half a year since I returned to Malaysia after spending two wonderful years in Thailand.
Lots of things remain the same in my own backyard. Malaysian politics continues to be in a sorry state; the Opposition is still going back and forth around the 1MDB controversy when it could have focused more efforts on presenting a common policy and strategising on how to win rural votes in GE14. Meanwhile, my favourite banana leaf rice still tastes as delicious as always, and the country continues to be seen as a bubbling, bustling melting pot with not only the three usual major races, but also Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Nepalese, and Burmese nationals.
But one thing is obvious: I’ve changed.
I’ve changed, a lot. For the better or for the worst – I don’t know. I came back realising my social circle has changed. My present location isn’t what it used to be. I’m not longer staying at my “Bachelor’s home” as what my uncle would call it. And oh, I’m not only out of almost ten-year singlehood – something I didn’t ask for, but engaged.
And most importantly, I’ve changed in the way I look at and react to things. Some of my values have changed as I meet more and more people, as I explore more and more places and cultural values. What were once priorities to me are no longer priorities at this point in time. As I focus on building another phase of my life, I have set new priorities, new goals for myself. There are certain changes you just have to embrace as the situations and people around you evolve.
I no longer want to be seen as being politically correct every time just to please certain people, to fit into the “ideal” mold of the society. It’s an impossible job – you just can never please everyone.
These changes are not necessarily the product of my two-year escapade in Thailand. They are, in fact, the cumulative result of the experiences, all the ups and downs in my life from way before I resigned to pursue a year-long travel adventure. Of course, those who have been following me know that things had since taken a different turn. But this entry isn’t going into that.
So, as I reflect upon the changes I’ve experienced all these 12 years that I’ve been away from my family in North Borneo, it suddenly makes me think of the very people whom I feel are responsible for those.
I know that we are the sole controller of our own lives, but let’s put it this way: no one is an island; we live in a community, and there is bound to be some people who serve as the agent of change in our lives.
And my Pa and Mi do just that – helping to deconstruct and reconstruct my worldview.
Of course, they don’t stay with me – I’ve always been away from them. They don’t travel with me often; they also didn’t pursue the two-year adventure in Thailand together with me.
Though not always physically together, they have always given me the best of support I can ever have. Moral and mental support, to be exact.
This is a typical Asian society I’m living in, and it’s not easy for such support without some judgement from certain society members. I’m talking about the kind of support that allows me to pursue my desired course, to venture into my desired field, to follow my dreams, such as self-publishing my own book and taking on a different kind of travel, among many other things I’ve done.
Some parents can’t even let their children stay away from them. But I’m glad and thankful my parents aren’t like that. I am not only away from them, I’m like a nomad, really. Others can’t accept their children dating or marrying anyone outside their race, and yet my sister-in-law is Bidayuh, and my fiancée is Thai.
Sometimes I do feel bad for my parents. I feel bad that before they could even judge me, others are already passing judgement on me, on us. Sometimes I get flak for what I do, just because I don’t follow people’s formula, just because I don’t conform to what they think is good or ideal for me. It is as if there is a single formula that fits everyone. Every. Single. One.
These are some of the real issues that exist in our very society, ones that never would cross your mind until when things happen. Yet when they do, the issues are right there – hitting you hard like a ton of bricks in your face.
But my parents continue to give me that kind of support. They know that as long as I don’t break any rules and regulations, so long as I’m always doing my best in what I do, and as long as I’m happy, that’s all it matters.
This is how strong Pa’s and Mi’s support has been. They let me see the world; learn more about people; revisit, deconstruct, and reconstruct my values, my worldview. Had they not given me the freedom to pursue my dreams, to man up to take ownership of my own life, to make mistakes, I will remain stagnant and in the same spot, in my comfort zone, still looking sparkling clean and perfect from the outside, but with very little depth from the inside.