A Conversation

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The smell of second hand smoke from afar, cordoned off at the "smoking area", the loud whirring of the fans, the occasional old uncle beckoning for the beer lady over to his table, the busy chatter of families having dinner. I had my mum sitting opposite me at the neighbourhood coffee shop. Dad and bro were both not with us - had their own activities which I can't remember at this point of time but we were the only ones left at home on that very Sunday evening. We had ordered from the "zi char" stall  (for the purposes of those who don't know, it's essentially one that serves Chinese dishes), two dishes off the usual four we usually order as a family since it was only the two of us that night.

The food was taking way, way, way too long to arrive and my mum was getting increasingly impatient but I was just feeling quite nonchalant about the whole situation - it was still the June holidays, I didn't have school the next day nor homework due, so I had time. Besides, I had something else on my mind.

I glanced at the people around us. Families, couples, children, the elderly, coming to the coffee shop, getting their dinner and going off afterwards, back to their lives. So many people coming and going, each living different, separate lives. I reckon, there's so many people in the world - each doing their own thing, getting a job, raising a family, most not being that contended with what they do and yet having to continue the same way for the sole sake of survival. Growing older, falling in the mundane nature of it all - was there anything more they wanted? I paused and looked at my mum, who didn't look happy at all at this point of time.

"So mum, how do you find your life?"

She gave a slight smile, and paused before proceeding to tell me how she felt pretty settled at this stage of her life - afterall her son was heading to university this year - med school at that - and her daughter... well her daughter refers to me and the impression she has of me is that I'm doing pretty okay in junior college - and I shall let that impression remain, as far as anything goes. I suppose, as people grow older, their priorities mainly centre around their children so their well being equates to theirs but isn't that quite a tiresome and fairly unexciting life?

"But hmm... then where will you move from here? Like, are you satisfied to see your life remain as it is... wouldn't you want to take steps to make it more fulfilling? Like to challenge yourself, to make your life more exciting?" The questions I was asking seemed akin to an interview's but she didn't seem to mind at all.

Perhaps she didn't fully understand me or the basis of my question but she started telling me about how at the workplace, she was recently asked if she was keen to take on bigger, newer responsibilities.

So essentially everything's just circled around family, and work. And money perhaps. That's really it, and that's really scary. I always have the feeling that people somehow immediately lose their sense of wonderment and creativity once they hit thirty and maybe that's true. But I don't want that to happen to me. I like working on creative projects related to craft, I like photography, I like writing, I like doing crazy stuff, I like experimenting and adventures and really just trying to make my life a bit more exciting - really, I go all out to do unconventional activities to make myself more busy but I enjoy them so much. But I have a feeling all these will stop once life hits me in the face and I get into the horrible cycle of trying to earn money and make a living and that becomes all that I'm fixated on.

I'll soon disappear in the same crowd that surrounds me - when all I care about in the world is my family and myself. From some angles, that's pretty sweet and it sounds like a comfy way to live one's life but at this point of time, it doesn't sound enticing at all. I've always had this noble dream of making an impact in the world positively - or at least, large groups of people - and I still want to fulfil that in the best way I can and not chuck it to the back of my head as the reality of everything overwhelms me.

The food came shortly thereafter, and the prawn paste chicken was exceptionally tasty. As we ate, there was a comfortable silence but it felt as though the conversation that came before was forgotten by my mum. It came as a surprise the next day though, when my mum asked me if she could come along with me when I did volunteer work, or at least contribute in some way to the society.

"Oh my, were you thinking about the questions I asked you yesterday?"

She nodded, before going back to her usual routine.

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