When I was young, my elders lectured and emphasised the following:
1) The importance of punctuality – Get to school on time, don’t make people wait for you (especially if they were adults), the early bird gets the worm etc..
2) The importance of finishing what you start – Don’t do things halfway, must be disciplined, if you always gives up half way, you’ll never be successful in live,
3) Don’t daydream like Mat Jenin – Mat Jenin is a character who always have lofty dreams of making it rich but ends up screwing himself in the end because of his stupidity and complacency. So I was discouraged from day dreaming and to put words into action. I don’t know how many times I was told not to be complacent that it became annoying because it came to a point when I think I was actually accused or was actually complacent. What was meant (the action) to be an encouragement and warning to me not to take the path of Mat Jenin actually became counter-productive because the way my elders were imparting their wisdom was wrong.
4) Don’t waster your time doing nothing – Sitting around doing nothing is discouraged. I must always engaged myself in productive activities.
In adulthood and in work live, these values were further honed in me. I worked in overseas, a metropolitan city where it was like they say, a rat race. I find these values more relevant and important in navigating my career path and working towards promotion.
These values have become part of my character, inextricatable. It is who I am. I am a man of few words. My in-laws noticed that and they had once remarked that when I do make a comment, it was like a prophecy because what I commented actually came true. Friends and colleagues said I seem to be always in deep thought. Well, I don’t know about deep thoughts but how does one stop thinking even for a second unless one is sleeping. My mind is always thinking, I observe my surroundings and sometimes I even subconciously make a conclusion of a situation. I would go like, “Ah! I would do that too if I was in a situation like his”. “understandable”.
I wouldn’t say I dislike small talks but I just don’t do them often. People can sit for hours in the kopi-tiam, me? I finish my coffee in less than 10 minutes and I am ready to go. The same with eating out in restaurants, if I am with my wife, dining out usually do not last more than an hour. If I am dining out with her family and relatives, different story of course. I just have to bear with it and entertain them. However, I am usually the quiet one while they banter.
Shopping to me? It’s a precise and clinical process. Before leaving the house, I already have an objective, go and buy the item that you want and come home and start installing the gadget. Sometime I do the groceries too when I am in the mood to cook. My wife doesn’t cook, we always ‘ta-pau’ (order takeaways), that’s live for working couples in the city. No window shopping. My wife knows this and does not force me to accompany her.
After living in the city for more than a decade, I got tired of the rat race and came back to my home country. I didn’t know that you can get culture shock in your own culture but I did.
What I don’t understand is, why are the very elders that instilled these values in me are now complaining about my character and mind set? I find myself in an ironic situation LOL. They find themselves unable to keep pace with me. I find myself being the one giving lectures about being punctual, about planning, about prioritizing, to put words into action...
Take for example my mom, she would say that she wants to go shopping and ask me to drive her to the store. I told her ok, I will set aside my work and drive you. When do you want to go? She would say, “before 12pm”. I say ok, that means today I only have half a day to work. So I would wait and wait and wait for her to get ready. What do you know, in the end, she is ready but it’s now 3pm!!! LOL! I just lost a whole day of work. To me that is one unproductive day and 1 day less in reaching my target.