Life is like the matrix: which pill will you take?

If there’s one thing I absolutely do not get about the culture I was born in, it’s this. The A to B lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about the coastal, seaside, take everything slow attitude that comes from living 5 minutes away from the beach lifestyle. I’m talking about the coloured, Cape Malay lifestyle. Let me explain.
Growing up as a Cape Malay coloured, my life was pretty much A to B. At least, it’s supposed to be. I’m supposed to:

  • Finish school
  • Get a degree at a university in either the medical, science or financial field
  • Get a job in the field I’ve studied and keep it for 20 years
  • Meet a guy in similar field of study and descent
  • Date for no longer than 1 year before tying the knot because the guy “kan nie die couches warm sit nie” – loosely translated “cannot sit the couches warm”
  • Have a flamboyant engagement party to said guy
  • Have an even more flamboyant wedding inviting the whole neighbourhood and everyone my parents and grandparents have ever met in their entire lives. READ: nobody I actually know.
  • Exactly 9 months after I’ve been married I need to pop out a baby
  • Exactly 9 months after my first child is born I need to pop out another baby (you get the point).
  • Gain 20kgs and succumb to a life of kids’ parties, family gatherings (where you’ll eat everything in front of you – see the 20kgs in first clause) and falling over plastic toys while chasing after your toddler/s.
  • Get old and die

That is what I call the A to B lifestyle; the lifestyle that you’re manipulated into having if you’re born into a Malay family. It’s something that’s actually so hard-coded into who we are that we don’t even realise how messed up it is. For me, at least. All Malays know that when they grow up, their lives should be tailored to the top 10 points listed above. The expectation and pressure from our families to follow this cookie-cutter plan is intense. And at the end of it all the reward is a deep admiration from your family and the nods of approval stating that you’ve made it.

In my culture there is this unwritten rule that if you don’t follow this 10 point plan (point A to B), then you have not done life right. You will be subjected to a lifetime of torture being silently judged at family gatherings, surrounded by others who are living the A to B and are asking you questions to figure out why you are not moving closer to B, which just makes things awkward for everyone.

But when are we going to realise that we if we follow this plan we are all just living carbon copies of our parents’ lives? The funny part about all the questions regarding why you’re not moving closer to point B yet is that it’s so completely inaccurate. You are moving to point B, but because you are going where the path has not been paved before it looks as if you have no direction. And everywhere you go where there are people living the A to B, it feels as if you don’t quite fit in.

I’m grateful that my parents raised me to be a free thinker. That doesn’t mean they raised me without religion. The A to B actually has nothing to do with religion; it’s the traditions and culture that gets confused with religion – and that’s what makes people judge other people.

And it doesn’t end there. Us Malays are also highly competitive, even between families. Whose children are dressed the best at the parties? Whose parties are the most extravagant? Whose kid is smarter than the rest? Whose kids are at the better schools? Whose kids are married into the better families? The cycle never ends.

There are very few people who manage to bypass the system of the A to B lifestyle. But it isn’t easy for them. I’ve lived my entire life trying to be “the perfect person” in the standards of what was deemed perfect in my culture. I wasn’t always this rebellious. In the beginning I tried really hard to squeeze who I naturally was into this box that I’m expected to fit in to. I felt extremely guilty and sometimes embarrassed that I didn’t.

I think for most of my life I compared my journey to everyone elses. I would interrogate myself about this aimlessly. I wanted to fit in, and I wanted to have something in common with my family so that we could actually have real conversations at gatherings. But the more I forced it, the more I realised how different I was to them. It took me a long time to finally accept who I am. To be happy and content with my life so far. It was only up until a few months ago when I realised that I didn’t need to fit in. I chose a life that would bring me happiness. Not one that is based off of years of tradition.

And I think it’s okay if your life doesn’t go according to plan. Because who’s plan is it really?
If you were interested, this was my plan..

  • Finished school
  • Get a degree at a university in either the medical, science or financial field. Completed studies in Copywriting, Digital Marketing & Design
  • Get a job in the field you’ve studied and keep it for 20 years Worked for a year with no salary, because I wanted the experience in order to go after my dream job, which I eventually got after years of hard work in the digital marketing industry
  • Meet a guy in similar field of study and descent Met M, the total opposite of who I am but also a free thinker
  • Date a for no longer than 1 year before tying the knot because the guy “kan nie die couches warm sit nie” – loosely translated “cannot sit the couches warm” Dated for 4 years, married for 6
  • Have a flamboyant engagement party to said guy Nope
  • Have an even more flamboyant wedding inviting the whole neighbourhood and everyone your parents and grandparents has ever met in their entire lives. READ: nobody you actually know. <– This one I actually did
  • Exactly 9 months after you’ve been married you need to pop out a baby Worked on building my career. See point 3
  • Exactly 9 months after your first child is born you need to pop out another baby (you get the point). Travelled to Bangkok, Phuket and Malaysia, while building my career
  • Gain 20kgs and succumb to a life of kids’ parties, family gatherings (where you’ll eat everything in front of you – see the 20kgs in first clause) and falling over plastic toys while chasing after your toddler/s. Gained a few kg’s while travelling to Vietnam (with a travel voucher that was given to me by my employer, as a token of thanks for the hard work)
  • Get old and die Do amazing, spontaneous things, travel the world, inspire people to do things differently and then eventually die

You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.Morpheus, to Neo [src]