I used to have many friends who had strong ideals. Sometimes, we would not agree with each other as our opinions simply do not converge.
Of late, I’ve been sapped because, one by one, when conversing with my friends, they express the shadows of their former selves. The usual “narrative” goes like this (if you feel you have been quoted; rest assured you are not alone):
I’m tired of all these. I just want to settle down somewhere, hopefully with a nice girl, and maybe a few kids.Anonymous friend
My first thought was to rebut, “But how about your dreams and your personal goals?” It usually descends into a series of rants about how life is not going so well. I am quite sympathetic because I sometimes feel lost too, and I myself can find it difficult to articulate the complexity of choices available to me. Another friend suggested the following:
Easier to be a student, where the goals are well-defined.Another anonymous friend.
I remembered the incredible disbelief when I told students that they should enjoy their schooling life wherever possible. My rationale was quite simple: students do not need to fret about the complexity of choices as long as they can afford to get to school (Side-note: the reason why affordable education is extremely important for students). They know they must study, develop skills, but they don’t have real stakeholders to answer to except themselves. Moreover, by and large, the sandbox is larger; students are supposed to fail by design to learn while attempting to pursue stretch goals.
But whose life is that smooth sailing? I am confronted with a number of possibilities that can become crushing reality should I not look at them diligently enough. Many in my generation wonder what they will do 10 years from now. How about those that do not settle down? What if one settles down with an incorrect partner? The problem with this is that this cannot be treated as an academic exercise; one has to make certain decisions and stick to them. One can cop out of an important meeting, or an acquaintance’s awkward social gathering, but there is no evasion of choices that will directly affect one’s life.
And now I look at dreams, and on the other side of the same coin, regret. This ties in with the book I read about palliative care and meeting Death. When thinking about Death, one thinks about how one wants to live one’s life. Unfortunately for the Singaporean spirit in us, there is no ten-year series on this. Even if there was, the probability of fulfilling a certain life trajectory is close to zero; just don’t bother trying to live just like someone else.
We have to decide how we should live our lives. And for me, one key motivation is wanting to live life with as few regrets as possible. The corollary is quite straightforward; I must go fulfil my dreams. So what if they were written in primary school? The dreams may have changed, but the spirit of dreams did not change; we had dreams of becoming teachers, policemen and firemen because we wanted to be helpful, and do a profession that we can live up to our own consciences. I may not be any of these professions, but the spirit of said dreams live on.
There is a palpable fear, at times, that I’ll succumb, like my friends, to an unknown force that would swallow my dreams alive. But as of now… my willpower still holds out strong, and the try harder maxim still holds.
(For the unfortunate souls who had to endure karoake sessions with me, perhaps the post above is why I pick a certain song that goes… you shoot me down, but I won’t fall… I am titanium!)