“So what do you do work at when you’re not here finishing off your degree?”
“I’ve been a professional singer and dancer for the past 6 years.”
“I wouldn’t have guessed. You really know what you’re doing in class”
“I work hard at it.”
It takes you by surprise somewhat, that people are capable of doing anything should they put their minds to it. Having had the opportunity to teach students for this past year, I’ve learned that sometimes, the usual stereotypes don’t apply and for the better part, there is a world out there that all the more amazing should you pay any attention to it.
It strikes me as a stark contrast between the world I’ve come to live in and the culture that I come from. Back in Malaysia at least, families and peers are so bent in getting their kids out to work. There is a driving force in Asian culture that forces youths to take up the mantle of a provider to both care for the rest of their families and as an image to the rest of society. Young adults by the age 25 at least should have been married with a job by now rather than pottering around in university trying to get a degree. If not, you have to endure the increasing pressure and shame to “grow up” by your family and peers, even if it’s for something more. It’s just the way it is for most Asian cultures.
Here where I am, I’ve learned that you’re never too old to learn new things. Here it is a norm to see people from their 30’s, 40’s and even people in their 50’s learning side by side with people who just completed their high school. It isn’t viewed on as an oddity or an abomination. Most people don’t even think about it. I tend to think that it’s amazing that people still choose to take up the mantle to learn new things, whether or not its to get ahead in the job they are at, or just because they want to for fun.
When was the last time you heard someone tell you that they are doing a science degree for fun when they have been artists, businessmen and civil servants for years or even decades on end?
Again, that’s the way it works around here. People aren’t afraid to take on new challenges and learn new things. They are mature enough, and not just in retrospect to their physical age, to realise that if that is what you really want, then all the “funny looks” in the world won’t discourage you from what you want to do. Even if I grew up in a culture where you’re expected to do and be a certain kind of individual, this is the kind of freedom I’m most at home with.
I’d like to think that more Malaysians could do better to grasp more in life rather than making do with what they will be in for the rest of their lifetimes. The world we live in isn’t just about what we can see. It’s also made up of what we don’t know. There is only a finite amount of excuses to maintain ignorance. The rest is dependant on how much you want it, for better or for worse, in order to see it through.