Thursday, May 30, 2013

How to live life

It's fascinating how different people decide to live out their lives. Life circumstances puts some constraints to what you can do with your life (eg. North Koreans have less options on deciding how they want to run their own lives, as a more extreme example), but in the western world and even in the more developed countries in Asia, we do have quite a bit of freedom in determining how we want to live out our lives.

Some people devote their lives to make as much money as their circumstances allow them to; it doesn't matter if they are in the bottom social class or if they are already billionaires. At the billionaire level it's more like accumulating points in a video game, competing with other billionaires to see who can accumulate more money in this coming term. 

Some people strive to "keep up with the Jones", determined to own a car, a house, a dog, and two kids. It doesn't matter if their financial circumstances doesn't quite allow this. After all, that's what credits are for right? 

Similarly, some people live to compete/compare with others. My child is prettier/smarter/plays hockey better than your child. My house is nicer than yours. You have a boat? I need to buy myself a yacht! you have a stereo? I better get surround sound multi- media system, even if I don't listen to music!  

Some people strive for stability; the goal in live is to find the safest husband or wife, obtain the safest job (eg. Doctor/engineer/accountant, OR some type of permanent government job); never try anything novel or potentially risky; never attempt anything they don't understand. Life is about playing it safe all the way. After all, the world is full of bad people and dangerous hazards. Better go for safety at all costs!

Some people feel the world owes them everything. Why was I not born in Switerland where the scenery is gorgeous, the country is rich, the social welfare is excellent, and taxes are relatively low? Why does my boss pay me so little while they pay double the salary for the same position in Zurich? Why is the weather so crappy here when it's so nice in California? Why do stores close so early on Sundays? I want to sleep in and be able to go shopping at 5pm! Why isn't my boyfriend more wealthy and more understanding? Why wasn't I born looking more like Angelina Jolie? Why do I have to work so hard while the rich families' kids can just party all day long? Why is the world so cruel to me?

For the longest time I thought I was choosing my own path in life, but really I was trying to make a compromise between my life goals and my parents' wishes. I thought their wishes were in coherence with the Chinese society's expectation on its people. Turns out their expectations are more in line with the 50s way of thinking, ie. horribly out of date, and I've been trying to live up to that. Big time fail! Actually society's expectations might not be inline with what an individual desires to be anyways, but I was trying to be a good citizen in society (as I got brainwashed to think so). 

It's very scary a lot of things we think we want are actually external influences, ie. they were not our original desires at all. We think we want pouty lips like Angelina Jolie, but that's only because the media tells us it's the sexiest kind of lips to have. The media, schools, governments and all types of authorities have agendas to shape the public in a certain way. For Asians, parents feel like they permanently have the right to tell the kids what's wrong and what's the best way to look, to be, and to live life even if the offsprings are over 50 years old. If we don't slow down and reflect often,  it is very easy to believe that what was taught to us in elementary school, by our parents, and from the TV are things that we ourselves want. 

For me, I still have constant battles with imaginary mom's voice, justifying my actions and feeling "mom wouldn't approve of this", even though she has no control of me any more. When I lived under her roof I had to follow her rules; now I don't any more but I still have a victim's mentality. The challenge for me I. The next few years to grow out of that mentality, to realize I have full control of my life and do something about it, rather than feeling helpless because "mom said good girls shouldn't try this. Mom said I'm not good enough." It's surprisingly difficult, due to decades of ingrained preaching. Seems like I will be spending the next decades undoing some of the wrong thinking and to figure out what *I* really want rather than what others think I should be or do.

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