What to do when you’ve reached Happy Ever After

  1. Graduate from college
  2. Find a good paying work with really nifty benefits
  3. Marry the love of your life
  4. Have kids
  5. Have a home

The things listed above are the usual goals we are expected to achieve. It’s as if anyone who deviates from this is subject to questioning. Those who did not finish college are looked at differently in comparison to those with diplomas. Women are often pestered by well meaning relatives when she’ll get married. Couples without children? There must be something wrong with them. Though the list is simple and quite easy to achieve, it’s like THESE are the only options and YOU MUST NOT DEFY CONVENTION lest you become a social pariah of sorts.

But say, hypothetically, you do graduate from college and get a decent job. You’re married, have kids, and your home is well kept. What do you do with your life now?

Of course, you work some more to support your family and your home and all that. Perhaps you could take vacations, have a car, and other stuff like that.

But let me rephrase that question. What do you do with YOUR life now? Not your kids’ or your spouse’s, but you. What are the things you will work for, for your personal improvement?

And here, my friend, the possibilities are wide open. Not exactly unlimited, since you know, there will always be constraints, but yeah, you pretty much have a freer rein from this point onwards. You can crochet. Or not. Learn how to bake. Take an online course. Create a flower garden. Blog. Bullet journal. Learn a new sport. Travel to new places. Read more books. Do arts and crafts. Join an organization with a cause. Help a charity. Write a script. Watch vintage movies. Compose a song.

The point is, have something you are passionate about that is all your own. Something that is separate from your responsibilities. Some may take this as being selfish. “You’re a family person now. You’re supposed to take care of your kids and your husband/wife. Self-care? You must be a bad person.” Well let me tell you something. It’s difficult to be a spouse and parent, to give a part of yourself to others, if your well-being is not taken care of. And by taking care of yourself, by doing what you love, you are happier and more capable of taking care of the people you love.

So what do you do after Happy Ever After? You embark on a new adventure, and start anew.

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My jobs in alternative realities.

When I was young, I wanted to be an astronomer. I thought it was simple as memorizing the then nine planets in the solar system. I can handle that. As I read more books, I learned that the universe was not as simple as that. There were quasars, pulsars, nebulae and black holes. I got more stoked about the topic, and imagined myself in a lab coat beside a giant telescope, studying the moon and the night sky. Eventually, as I grew up and looked around, I realize there was not much work opportunity around me available for a budding astronomer.

Ideas for future careers tossed back and forth in my mind. I wanted to be a teacher, an interior designer, an artist, and other vague ideas. Then when I was in high school, my grades were pretty mediocre except for one subject: History. My classmates were asking me to be part of their groups. My teacher would assign me as her replacement during teacher’s day. During exams, my friends would ask me to help them review. Whoever my pair was during class quizbees would feel lucky. I was practically kicking ass in this subject! This was awesome! I decided I wanted to be an archaeologist. I was even envisioned as one by my classmates who wrote our class prophecy. Alas, our school had a policy that required graduates to take up STEM courses. My dream of being an archaeologist remained a dream.

After that, I decided my dream was to eat or travel for a living. I was pretty much lazy at this point. Who wouldn’t want that, right? Whereas other people spend a lot for both, I would get paid! Sweet! At this point, my mother, who has been a housewife all my life, decided to go back to work and practice her profession as a Food Technologist. Growing up, I never really wondered what her course in college was. But as she began to go to meetings during her consultancy job back then, since she would tell me to meet her there, I began consuming thoughts of what if I followed her profession, as well as the cakes and pastries left over from her meetings. This desire was cemented when I worked as an intern on the milk factory where she worked next. It had the science part (titration of milk samples per supplier) and the eating part (for every batch produced, we had to taste a sample of it). Neat! I could satisfy both my whims and that of my school!

More than five years henceforth and I am now practically living all that I worked hard for. I am now a Food Technologist in a big canning company. But of course, once in a while, I still wonder how things would have worked out if I pursued my other dreams. What if I did become an astronomer? Where would I be if I am now an archaeologist? My interests for these subjects never really left me. And though I am quite content and happy with where I am now, it’s still nice to fancy myself as a totally different person once in a while.

Mirage of Motherhood

Society paints a very serene picture of motherhood: A glow on your face as you smile down on your little one while the song of a music mobile plays on the background. The baby coos and giggles as you play. You feel like there are fireflies all about and all is well with the world. Whoever painted this picture must have been selling something, because motherhood is not the glamorous happy thing they depicted it to be.

For someone who has a rather mechanical way of viewing the world, transitioning from world dominatrix a single millennial to a wife and mother felt like a 180° rotation of the world. It was drastic, and the opposite of what I was expecting. I thought I was going to grow old alone in a house surrounded by books and a dog, happily drawing for the rest of my life. Clearly, this is not what I signed up for.

Of course, logical little me read up on the matter of motherhood. Knowledge is power after all, and knowing means the battle is half won. So there I went reading the blogs and information on the internet about having kids and how to cope. People kept giving me unsolicited unwanted advices. Overall, the chorus was clear: having a baby will make one happy.

All those researches and advices just went flying through the window. My baby is now three months old, and to be honest, I feel horrible. How could someone cold and apathetic offer the warmth and sympathy my daughter needs? The lack of sleep and stress has caught up with me and made my patience short, patience that I use when putting up with my baby’s cries. I am used to knowing the solution to the problem, and ta-dah! Every time the problem comes back, I know what to do. Having an offspring is different: Sometimes she is hungry, sometimes sleepy, sometimes the diaper is full and sometimes she is just grouchy. Having no clear solution or approach to a situation is very scary. And though I am grateful that there are people who help me in taking care of the baby, sometimes I feel so useless. I should be the one waking up in the middle of the night to soothe my daughter. Although yes, that does happen, after a few minutes and my temper runs out, the little one is still crying while I cry along with her.

Yes, motherhood is not all unicorns and rainbows. It is grit and toil and blood and sweat and tears. It involves waking up on unholy hours and feeling like killing people groggy in the morning. It is being patient when things no longer make sense. It is calling upon whatever heavenly or earthly deity you believe in for just a few seconds of peace. It’s looking at your significant other while he peacefully sleeps and you’re sleepy and trying to pacify a deranged crying offspring.

But it’s also laughing like an idiot when you “talk” with your little one. It’s delighting in your baby’s every first. It’s seeing your mother and other elderly ladies in your family go crazy buying things for their grandchild. It’s having your father post every picture of your baby that he can get his hands on on social media. It’s being excited to go home, because now you actually have a “home”, and you have someone to come home to. It’s letting go of the notion that everything has to be right, perfect and in control, and starting over and learning that it’s ok to make mistakes, to not know a bit and to let loose once in a while.

Motherhood is not what society has painted it to be. It’s earthy and not too glamorous. But it’s also much, much more worth it.

Smart Kid Goes Dumb

Imagine this: You were an achiever during your elementary days. As the benchmark of academic success, younger family members were held against you in comparison, only for them to fall short of standard. Not only were you an achiever, you were THE achiever. You got top grades, and probably have a few more noteworthy assets up your sleeves.

Come the high school era and your performance deteriorates a bit. You are no longer THE achiever, but peers still regard you with respect, as there were things that only YOU could do better than they could. The talents that were once on the sidelines became your defining traits: you were THE artist, THE writer, THE athlete, or whatever it is that is your passion.

Once you hit college, you no longer consider yourself THAT smart, but you could fall asleep in class and manage to pass your subjects. The confidence you got from cultivating your talents seeped into your swagger, and your grades. More or less, you already have carved your niche in society, and the society in turn, either respected that or had no choice but to accept that.

All throughout your young life, you worked hard to get by and finish your education, because society has told us that if you get good grades, you will land yourself a decent job, and that should be the pinnacle of your life above ground. Follow the system, they say, and you will be fine.

But as soon as you receive your diploma and go about job hunting, the reality of life seeps in. That how you did in school will not translate to how you will do in life. So you understood your lessons in class? Throw all of that out of the window because the adult world has its own set of rules. Becoming an adult is like levelling up in a game. If at level one your hp is a formidable number, when you reach level 2, your hp goes back to 0.

It’s actually a very confusing state, being in your early 20’s. You have the obligations of an adult: You pay taxes, you have to work, and suddenly you have all these responsibilities. And yet, other adults still treat you as a child. When you make mistakes, it’s all blown up out of proportion, as if you have been doing whatever adult thing you are doing for ten years (never mind that they themselves mess up big time once in a while too). And when you do things right, they push more into your plate because hey, you can handle it, without giving anything that could compensate for your inputs. All of a sudden, it’s like you’re in kindergarten again: you’re dawdling about in life, not knowing what to do and just bumping into things. You’re clueless, and people keep yelling at you for not getting things right.

Being in the age of Facebook-breathing, Instagram-happy hoodlums doesn’t help either. You keep scrolling down pages, hoping your life was as good as that friend of ours who went on a vacation the other week as per his Facebook post, or that your life is as interesting as that of your college buddy who keeps posting pictures of restaurants she dines in on Instagram. You wish your life was more than what it currently is and that you lived with more passion and excitement.

Instead, your life is like that of a hamster on a wheel: you seem like you’re going somewhere but you’re not. It’s infuriating because no matter how much effort you put in, it’s all for nothing. And even if you’re the most successful hamster among all hamsters, you’re not much different from them either. You begin to look with longing and envy to the birds in the sky that flutter about without so much of a care in the world.

It’s dismaying that you know you have the potential, yet somehow cannot get things right. Having done all that you can all your life yet still waking up uninspired and underappreciated starts to leave a bad taste in your mouth. Unfortunately, despite being an achiever, when starting out in the real world, smart kid goes dumb.

Somethin’s a Brewing

Sometimes, our own realities become so mundane that we get bored of it. And sometimes, we have ideas that just don’t sit still. They don’t just bang the door, they practically rearrange the furniture in your mind. Lately, that’s how I’ve been feeling, so the only way to shut up these ideas was to get them out. And hopefully, they would stop moving around the furniture in my “mind palace”.

“Lee and Gus”

That’s the preliminary title of my story, as I’m not sure what to entitle it yet. I suppose it’s a love story, although it’s still in the works. Basically, Lee and Gus are friends. Gus is the bookish nerdy type who’s secretly pinning on her guy friend, Lee. Lee is your typical guy who always falls for girls who are way out of his league. Then Lee does something that led Gus to burn all bridges between them.

Several years later, Lee is living the life: high-paying job, fun parties, and gorgeous women fawning all over him. But something was missing, as he looked as his friends who were already getting married. He meets Gus again, and falls in love with her. However, everyone else thinks he’s just playing with her, just as he does with every other girl.

It still just a sketch, but I hope I can finish it. It’s been ages since I have done something related to creativity (finish a story, draw something awesome), and this would be a way to pick up the pieces and start again.