Sunday, December 15, 2013

Far from the madding crowd

When we’re in a social context, we tend to look at each other’s good points, totally ignore the bad, and lament how far behind our peers we had fallen to. Some occasions, you might be far better than others but there are always others better than you. That's how the game is to be played and that’s also the reason why I don’t like social occasions – those meet-your-primary-school-mates or meet-your-secondary-school-mates gathering. I think it’s human to be jealous and envious of other people’s success. I’m certainly not immune to that. It’s present in everyone in different degrees.

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.


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


The needle in hand wishes to soar up high; the jade in box wishes to fetch a good price - Dream of the Red Chamber.

Most class comedians, jokers, and clowns share something in common on their growing up years - I don't tell you. LOL!

I use humour as my coping mechanism before 40.

After 40, I am at peace with who I am. What Confucius says it quite true!

By the way, my classmates, ex-colleagues, friends, and the madding crowd remained the same.

I had an epiphany ;)

(Wanted to say I changed but that's not quite correct...)

Anonymous said...

I dun like to mix with some of my friends anymore too. I still have a group of friends which we catch up over beer quite often, most of them did not do as well as me, I wondered sometime if that's why I like to meet them.

Slowly I realised ... No, I like to meet people with the same frequency as me, to the hell with their success or lack of, I could be talking to a millionaire and I felt like puking, or some one struggling with life because he is the cause of his own predicatement.

Usually, a meeting in a long whole is cool, meet more than once a week just make the conversation repetitive

But most of the time, I like to be left alone too. That's why I stay up at night when my whole family is asleep. I enjoy time with myself. I actually felt more drained at times during my overseas trip getaway with family... Haha but they want it, I give if I could.

Btw, not just secondary mates or the likes, the ones that actually bitch the most are actually those closest to me. E.g family members, wondered if it just me

la papillion said...


I get what you mean. If you're truly at peace, then no matter how strong the winds are, you'll still stand upright. I suppose I'm still learning how now to waver when the winds are strong :)

la papillion said...

Hi sillyinvestor,

Same freq is what I'm looking at too. It's really hard to pretend that you're interested in their lives as I grow older because I realised it's such a farce.

Even though my blog mentioned about the ills of being compared in a disadvantaged manner, I think being in balance also means you don't get affected when compared favourably to others. That's another sort of ills for another article. I guess you have to decide for yourself whether it's really true that you feel better after meeting your friends, hence you want to meet them more often.

Haha, I think I'm quite like you... I am quite comfortable being alone. Introvert?

Anonymous said...

LP, I mix with a small group (7 sec sch mates). Real trusted friends. We have gatherings only once every few months but watsapp daily. We don't have much career to discuss because the highest achiever is a HOD in JC. We do discuss about kids, talk about holidays, whether or not we like to receive flowers from husband (many find it a waste of money but still happy to receive) This year, 4 of our kids PSLE, took up much of our discussion space. All made it but one mother is very very disappointed, we tried everything, she still disappointed so we cut down on exchange about results and school selection. True friends. I do not purposely avoid other social group gatherings but the other girls seldom meet ;) Piggy

la papillion said...

Hi piggy,

It's good that you have such a group of friends who go way back to sec sch :) I also have a close group of friends but they come from bullythebear ;)

Ken said...


Very good post! Thumbs up!

Long time no see, how are you? I I agree some memories are meant to be buried. Meet up for old times sake - a handful of folks may have a different focus. So, we just leave the memorable ones as part of our journey in life :)

Be happy with what you do.

All the best in 2014


la papillion said...

Hi cookie,

Thanks! I'm good, long time never hear from you too :) You hve a great year ahead :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks LP for sharing! I just realised I never go to such gathering .. , JC classmates invited me once, I thought about it and decided I won't like n may not be able to handle the 应酬, never been invited anymore.

Quitted cny visits (to relatives) many years ago...

Sometimes, I think I make people embarrass when they try to say something good or make sense of what I am doing (like having 3 tuition students)... and I can't response appropriately to their kind justification.

cheers! Happy 2014!