Wednesday, April 17, 2013

For Malaysians in the UK.

It is hard to describe to people who have never been to Malaysia how it is to live in our country. The charm in old run-down coffee shops. Our language that is an affectionate blend of cultures. Gatherings with old friends at decrepit burger stalls by the roadside flanked by cybercafes with tinted windows. The way we all come together for an all-important badminton match. The vibrance. This is what you're leaving behind when you leave in the search for greener pastures.

In a couple of years, we're going to graduate. It's scary. As the weeks at university drag into months and eventually into years, it seems there are people out there who are already more accomplished than we will ever be. The people who already know what they're going to do with their lives. We all probably know one or two of them. The presidents of the societies and the insane people who win all the prizes and do all the work on time. The people with the perfect grades and perfect teeth and perfect knowledge of all the possible interview questions. They have the next ten years all mapped out. Woofuckinghoo, I applaud your persistence.

But for the rest of us, we're still somewhat caught in a multitude of options, one more mediocre than the next. There is a sentiment I sense creeping into our collective consciousness, as we struggle with our deadlines, that London is where we ought to be. A utopia of career prospects. But do you really want to live in London? Do you? To work in some formidable glass building in Canary Wharf. Where clocks everywhere remind you of the meetings you're late for and all the time zones separating you and all you know. Quaint coffee shops you have no time to sit down at. Breathing in the stale air of the London Underground where people are power walking in every direction you look, so that even if you are existentially lonely, it is impossible to be physically lonely. I cannot go on living in the UK knowing that I will not be going home the same day I complete my degree. It saps the fight out of me. London makes me sick.

Or you could always move back to Malaysia and work in a cubicle where you trade your mental health and early adulthood for pennies. Doesn't sound like much of a plan but it's the best one most of us have. By the time you repay your study loans, there really isn't much left of your life for anything else. You are no longer young, no longer allowed to take risks, not allowed to fail crazily, because you have too much at stake and too little time. You blend into a work culture that retards initiative in a million different ways so that, little by little, you are reduced to one of them.

Take your pick. I only hope, years from now, as we move to London and move away from London and wished we had or had not moved to London, that we are still fundamentally the person we want to be.