The thing about returning to a familiar place after you've been away from it for some time is that you come back seeing it through different eyes. The same goes for people you haven't seen for awhile.
I had the opportunity (albeit a rather sad one) to catch up with a whole bunch of college people whom I have not seen for a year yesterday. Sadly, though, what drew us all together for those couple hours was the funeral of a former college mate who took her own life.
Just standing there, observing the people who have been a part of my life for three years of college, while hearing about the circumstances that led to such a tragic death, made me think about what we live for.
Some people live for their partners - to a point of obsession, that they can't imagine life without that person. Regardless of how that person treats them, regardless of the other people in their lives who care about them. And other people put up with jobs they complain about just for the perks and the money.
Listening to the conversations that took place that day, I couldn't help but ask myself, "What about me? What do I live for?"
The thing is, whatever you live for, you live for at the expense of other things. There is always a price to pay for choosing whatever you believe is the most important in life. "So what's important to me?" I asked myself. "What am I willing to sacrifice other things for to have?"
Is revolving my life around one person worth the price of losing my entire sense of self?
Is money and convenience worth the price of my freedom and happiness?
Are those things worth it? I've asked myself those questions so many times. When I see couples on the street or hear about another friend who just got attached. When everyone else is on their iPhones, laughing at some inside joke going on in some WhatsApp conversation that I am oblivious to for the fact that I don't own the phone "everyone has".
And at times like those, it's easy to think yeah, they're worth it. It's so easy to get caught up in what "everyone else" is focused on. Especially as a fresh grad, it's so easy to fixate on career goals and the glittering prospect of finally earning your own cash and actually having real purchasing power. Or on finding 'the One' to settle down and make plans for the future with.
A popular mantra for my generation is that life is what you make it and you choose the life you want - but I don't think anyone deliberately chooses to prioritize money over genuine relationships or even personal wellbeing - it just happens as they go along. No one makes a purposeful decision to become so obsessed with another person that life without them warrants taking their own. Things like that happen gradually and slowly, and you don't even realize that what you are allowing your life to revolve around has changed you.
I used to be so certain that I wanted to settle down by my early twenties, and that KL was where I wanted to put my roots down. Living in the UK made me even surer of that, because I didn't enjoy my time there much, aside from the friends I made and places I got to travel to. I was certain that KL was where I'd left my heart but now, actually returning to it, I'm not so sure anymore.
It dawned on me that my time in the UK, even though I resented much of it, had changed me, without me realizing it at the time. I spent so much of my time there fantasizing about being back home while I was slowly but surely metamorphosing into someone else - someone who doesn't fit back into the places that the old me used to.
And this new someone - unlike the old me who used to be so sure of what I wanted - doesn't have it all figured out. For once, I have no idea what I want.
What I do know, though, is what I don't want.
Today, after church, I drove myself to lunch with the regular bunch of church friends I used to hang out with - except this time, I drove myself - alone. Unlike the many times I hung out with this group of people in the past, there was no one I needed to follow, or wait for - no one whom I had to accompany or who had to accompany me out of obligation because that's what you do when you're with someone.
It felt so good. And no, I'm not being one of those bitter single people who are all, "Look at me, I have so much more freedom than you attached suckers". I'll admit, it gets lonely. Very. Especially on nights when all I'm craving is a hug or a back rub or just someone to spill the thoughts in my head to. But loneliness is a price I'm willing to pay, for now.
And then I drove myself home instead of staying out all afternoon with friends. The old me, as long as there was company, would stay out as long as she could, just to stretch the boundaries of freedom from parents. But now it's a choice - I'm no longer staying out just to get away from my parents' watchful eyes at home or just to see how much trouble I can get away with. Those days are over and done with, and my curiosities on those matters more or less satisfied. Now it's a question of is this actually how I want to spend my time?
Today, my answer was no, I'd like some me-time this afternoon. It's been a hectic few weeks meeting up with people and working on a side project and I want some time to myself, to think, reflect, and process this whole period of transitioning back to life in KL. Right now, I'm under a cooling fan, in comfy shorts and a tank, listening to the soothing sounds of Arms & Sleepers, finally having some time to think and write - and I'm glad I chose to carve out some time for this.
Everything has a price. Question is, is the price worth it?
Is the convenience of some easily replaceable physical intimacy or a ever-ready listening ear worth the price of the time, space, and freedom to discover what I actually want in a relationship, or for that matter, if I actually want one right now? Right now, it's not.
But this freedom to say, "I don't know what I want, but I'm taking some time to find out" - it's worth the price of the lonely nights. Choosing to spend my money on people I care about and things I enjoy doing is worth the price of having an outdated phone or wearing budget store clothes.
I won't say I'm 100% sure of what I want to live for and devote my life to. I won't say I know for certain where I want to see myself in a couple years or what I want to be doing. As for what I want in a relationship, I'm even more clueless. But I know for sure all the relationships I'm seeing as I look around are not what I want (although I'm happy for those who have found what works for them). I know I haven't found a place where I want to put roots down. Or maybe I just don't want to put roots down for now. And that's a start, I guess.
(P/S - Why the purple umbrella? I guess it's because I've never liked the color purple - until now. I find myself liking many things I never used to, and it reminds me that I'm changing and growing. Plus, the solitary figure speaks to me as well.)
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. -Friedrich Nietzsche