Since I’m usually quiet and listen more often than talk about my own life, I usually end up nodding to their account of how their work lives sucks or what good things had happened in their lives. Some of them are teachers, so they talk about how bad the politics are like in school, and how the quality of the teaching goes from bad to worse. Nod, nod. Some are from the financial industry and they talk about how big a deal they are cutting and the sacrifices from days of work and over-time needed to achieve it. Nod, nod.
For those who have children, depending on the stage of growth, they might talk about things ranging from milk powder and diapers, maid and mother-in-law issues to enrichment classes and exam results. It’s like whoa, suddenly everyone had a different thing to do in life and I’m like left behind. I’m still a tutor since 10 years ago and my career don’t seem to progress like they do. I don’t have a name card or a fancy title to boast, nor horrible colleagues out to politically sabotage me. I don’t have unyielding KPIs to achieve, company dinners at luxurious hotels to attend, or year-end bonuses to fight for. Over-time? Yeah, I do but not to the extent that I have to go home at 2 am, taking a cab that is to be reimbursed by the company. There’s nothing as interesting or dramatic as those who I meet, so perhaps it’s understandable that they are not so keen to listen to the story of my life. Maybe it’s just that I’m mixing with the wrong crowd or perhaps it's the right crowd but with a different frequency now. Regardless, it’s the same feeling after meeting them - a feeling that you had been left out of a normal life. It’s weird because even though a normal life can be sucky, you still want it because you’re not part of something bigger if you don’t have it. It's irrational, yes, but emotions are seldom rational.
On stronger days, I can deflect it away with ease. But it's those days when my will is weak that I start to have self-doubts regarding the choices I've made so far. Are they all leading me towards a lifetime of irreparable doom? It’s a strange mix of despair thrown in with jealousy, mixed with a dash of envy and a generous handful of bitter anomie. It’s hard to know whether on any particular day, whether I am strong willed or not, until it’s stress tested. In other words, I won’t know until it’s too late. It’ll take me several days to a week to regain my balance. These days, I think about why I should even do this. It’s 1 week of my life, over-thinking about my past choices and feeling like the lowliest pond scum in the universe. I do all that to what end, I wonder.
Hence these days, I’ll likely decline all such invitations to get together for old time’s sake, to reminisce about the past and share the feeling of nostalgia. Let’s be realistic – our lives shared a common path long time ago and it had long deviated from each other. The past will always be more romantic and rose tinted in our memories than it really is in real life and we can never be that close again. Perhaps, things that are buried should just stay buried. At least the happy moments are also buried in your memories and you leave each other’s company with a sweet lingering taste long after the sweetness had been replaced with sourness and bitterness.